Friday, December 17, 2010

Flashback Friday: Christmas 1990 Newsletter

As promised, the following represents a Christmas newsletter my 18 year old self might have written if I had sent out Christmas newsletters that year. I have been sending out Christmas cards since I learned how to write letters (early 1980s), but I only started keeping a list of the cards that I mailed and received each year in 1987. I still have a list of every year since then in my Christmas cards binder (this binder includes the annual list of people, a copy of every newsletter, and a copy of every card from a boxed set--not ones I bought individually).

I had an aversion to writing an annual newsletter because my parents kind of said that they were "brag sheets", as they have gotten newsletters every year from people and some seem to present their families as "perfect." I only wrote one in 1999 as a time saving gesture since I was in the middle of college papers and studying for finals during my last semester at BYU. Before that year, I hand wrote updates on card after card to friends. My list of receipients have ranged from 30 on the low end to 80 on the high end (in 2000). I try to stay within 50 people each year. My policy is that I add a few each year and drop those I had not heard from sometime in the course of the past two years. In fact, if I won the lottery and the press asked me a question about how I would respond to people claiming to be my long lost cousin, my response would be: "If I have not received a letter, personal email, Christmas or birthday card, or gift from you in the past two years, don't bother contacting me now. I am generous and I know exactly who I intend to share my good fortune with."

My Christmas newsletter has evolved over the years. In 2001, I added a song lyric that has become a regular part of the newsletter. In 2005, I added a name (The Carillon Scholar). In some, I've had black and white photos on the paper (I love the coloured photos in newsletters that other people send to me. I'm so "low tech", though). For a couple years now, I thought of writing Christmas newsletters for the years I missed, particularly the years 1990 through 1998. They make a great summary of my year and its fun to read back over them every year as I prepare to write the next edition. So, without further delay, here is how my 18 year old self might have written one for Christmas 1990. Though I only added a title and song lyric to later editions, I will keep that tradition for the following one. Enjoy!

The Carillon Scholar

Christmas 1990

"The West is sleeping in a fragile freedom,
Forgotten is the price that was paid
Ten thousand years of marching through a veil of tears
To break a few links in these chains.

These things come to us by way of much pain
Don't let us slip back into the dark
On a visible but distant shore, a new image of man
The shape of his own future, now in his own hands..."

Johnny Clegg and Savuka, "One (Hu)Man, One Vote"

Hello and Merry Christmas! I have decided to mark my entry into adulthood by indulging in the much beloved tradition of the annual Christmas newsletter.

This year has been the most eventful of my life so far, mostly because I graduated high school on June 6th. After an impatient spring, in which I experienced all the symptoms of "Senioritis", I was happy to wear the green graduation cap and gown of Clarkston High School and receive my diploma without tripping on the stage in front of everyone. To maintain my individualistic nonconformity, I wore my black Converse hightops with the Batman symbol imprinted all over them. I hadn't planned on wearing them until a classmate begged me not to embarrass the class by wearing them. Thanks for the awesome idea! All throughout my Senior year, classmates called me "Batman" because of those shoes. The class song was "Tomorrow (A Better You, A Better Me)" by Quincy Jones (with vocals by Tevin Campbell) and our class motto was a rather lame "If we can't find the road to success, we'll build one!"

The biggest surprise was the mini-family reunion centered around my brother's and my graduation. My grandparents from Atchison KS brought along cousin Brandy and my Great Uncle Jim and Great Aunt Effie came down from Minnesota. A few church members also attended, along with my parents and sister. After the ceremony, my parents had a surprise party at the house with more gifts than at Christmas. An open house was held on Sunday, with more guests and their good wishes. I was truly surprised because my dad had said that the only gift I was getting for graduation was a copy of my church's specially made triple combination scriptures. Even more surprising, my favourite teacher Mr. Malone gave me a graduation gift: a Carpe Diem t-shirt, which meant a lot to me because if you saw Dead Poets Society last year, Malone's personality, beliefs, and teaching style is a lot like John Keating (Robin Williams' character). It was great being a student in Malone's government class this last year of high school and I will cherish that memory for as long as I live.

The day after my graduation, I woke up not knowing what to do with my life. I was burned out on more school, so college will wait. My dad was planning to charge rent in the fall. I used some of my graduation money to go to the music store and decided to take a risk on a special promotion of the album Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World by South African multi-racial band Johnny Clegg and Savuka. On first listen, I was HOOKED! I had never heard anything like this album before and I have become a serious fan! In fact, I attended their concert in October with a lady I know at work who is also a big fan of their music. We had a great time.

The other big event of my year is that about two weeks after graduating from high school, I enlisted in the United States Navy. This was a decision long time in coming, probably starting with my birth. As my dad loved to tell others throughout my life, when I was born in a U.S. Navy hospital in Taiwan, the Navy doctor tattoo'd on my rear end "Property of U.S. Navy -- Return When 18." I actually believed that joke for years. My mom said that I listened too much to my dad sometimes. They didn't actually expect me to join the Navy. That was the only branch I considered when I decided that I needed an adventure in my life before I am ready for more school. The day long ordeal at MEPS sealed the deal. After going through all the tests and experiencing "hurry up and wait", I decided that I would have wasted a perfectly good day if I walked away without signing papers and being sworn the oath.

However, I was not ready for Basic Training just yet. I wanted as much time between my enlistment and shipping off, so I made the date with destiny in May 1991. This will give me plenty of time to get in shape, physically and mentally. As part of my mental training, I have been reading books about life on aircraft carriers, letters from Vietnam era soldiers to loved ones back home, and watching the hilarious film Biloxi Blues. I want to make sure that I can handle anything the Company Commander might order me to do. I'm also hoping that the Navy will send me to Hawaii for my duty station. California is my second choice. I wouldn't mind being stationed in Washington state, either. Not sure when we will get our assignments, though. I do know that I am signed up to become a Yeoman. Whatever that is! I picked it because I liked the name. All I know is that it will be a desk job and involve processing paperwork.

The third biggest event for me this year was a family vacation to the Florida panhandle. My brother went to Spectacular in Lamoni, Iowa, which is a church-sponsored event for older teens centered around a lot of sports. I wasn't interested in a playing sports all week long when I could be in Florida with my family. It was memorable in a few ways. Our VW van broke down just north of Panama City. This required dad to rent a car while our van was getting fixed. Since our van does not have air condition and the rental car did, this turned out to be a blessing. We camped out on an Army resort near Destin, Florida. It was a relaxing vacation, with days on the beach, going to SeaWorld where I got to touch a dolphin, browsing in the various "Neon freon" souvenir shops (every store along the main strip seems to sell airbrushed neon t-shirts), and crab fishing on the pier. I became friends with another high school graduate, military brat who also enlisted in the military this past summer. While in Florida, Saddam Hussein's decision to invade Kuwait almost ended our vacation early, as my dad had to call in to work every day just in case he needed to return. Fortunately, though, he was allowed to stay on vacation, which might be the last vacation I spend with my family.

In sad news, my maternal grandmother passed away in the fall. My mother had not seen her mother since 1975, on our last family vacation to Thailand. I was hoping to someday meet the grandmother I never knew. She was known as a kind and spiritually wise woman.

This fall, I have been working at Lionel Playworld, which has proven stressful at times, especially as the holiday season approaches. However, we have a great group of regular employees, who make it fun to work there for the most part. The off duty police officers who work as security guards in the evening have taken to calling me a "Commie" for my liberal political views. I don't mind though, and I was especially excited to vote for the first time, even though it was just for local races and not the presidential one.

I hope that you all have a very Merry Christmas and may 1991 be a great year for us all (well, except for Saddam Hussein, that is). I know that I'm excited about the new adventure that awaits me in May!

"Saint" Nicholas

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