Perusing Liz’s diary, I found December entries for shopping trips, baking days, Christmas drinks and staff dinners. But nothing to suggest a letter was in the offing. ‘Liz,’ I said. ‘Have you forgotten something?’
‘No, Biskit. Everything’s in hand.’
‘Something involving writing?’ I nudged her hand. ‘And postage stamps?’
She looked away, avoiding my doggy brown gaze. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’
‘I think you do.’
‘Alright,’ Liz said. ‘If you want the truth. I started wearing glasses this year. Got hearing aids. My novel was rejected. And to top it all off, my sixteen year old daughter has just left home. A bit hard to put in print don’t you think?’
‘All the same,’ I persisted. ‘your friends like to hear from you.’
‘No, Biskit. It’s too hard, this year.’
I sighed, a big deep doggy sigh that went right to the tip of my tail. ‘Alright, I’ll have to do it.’
Having to do the Christmas letter didn’t come as a complete surprise. In fact, I had been itching to try my paws at bit of corporate writing, for some time. Emailing people, as Liz does. Following up with a probing phone interview. It seemed the perfect approach for a Christmas letter and a way to hone my journalistic skills.
I made up a list of questions and showed them to Liz.
1. Name one thing Biskit did in 2010, that made you think: Wow!
2. One instance in which you could have given Biskit more attention.
3. Describe something special you and Biskit have planned for 2011.
‘Hmm …’ she studied them in silence.
‘Well,’ I snuffled her hand. ‘What do you think?’
‘They may need tweaking.’
Tweaking! That is code word for a complete re-write. I have seen Liz go through this process a number of times. Can you be more specific?’ I asked. ‘Constructive?’
‘The themes are good she said. ‘A positive. Some regrets. Then looking forward. But … it’s not all about you Biskit.’
Not about me! Her words were a blow to the stomach. My ears drooped. My tail curled between my legs. I felt sick. After all this time? Didn’t Liz realise? I’m the faithful hound. Man’s best friend. Heart of the family. It is always about me!
Still, I had to be professional. Get the letter done. How many times had I seen Liz felled by a critique? How many times had I tiptoed round the house, thinking: This is it. This time we’ll have to have her committed. Then watched her recover and re-draft the piece. It would be the same for me, I decided. This was all part of the writing process.
I lay on the heating duct, licked my paws, chewed an old bone for a while and, sure enough, I came up with a revised list of questions. It was time to begin.
Wow! Moments for 2010
Ness completed her Certificate 3&4 in Personal Training this year. Seth got himself a job at the Rivoli Cinemas, Camberwell. He is also working as a Myer Christmas casual (don’t ask him about their carol CD). Priya, is still thinks wow! about last year’s big event ‒ Phoebe and Andy’s wedding. Liz went on a Silent Retreat (and hasn’t stopped talking about it since). Andrew’s duo, ‘INSIDEOUT,’ did an intimate community gig at Cheeky Latte Café. Monique enjoyed her home stay with a family in Vietnam. And Phoebe liked hiking in Tasmania. But Jack couldn’t decide on his ultimate wow moment:
“Seeing the Taj from space …actually, that didn’t happen. Um… the look on Kevin’s face as he got knifed in the back – priceless. Dunno… haven’t’ really drawn breath this year so its hard to say… maybe wow! It’s Christmas already.”
I wasn’t sure what to make of this waffling response ( Liz says it is typical of academic writing). One thing is clear — Canberra certainly does affect people.
Our final wow! moment comes from Andy McCann. He, Phoebe and their friend Brett, went to the Grampians for a long weekend. A group of kangaroos arrived at the caravan park to feed on the lush grass. One of them was an extremely excited male roo. While the tourists all took photos (of the group, not the male) one mother squatted beside her pre-schooler, pointed to the roo and said:
‘Look darling, there’s a Joey.’
Wow! Andy and Brett exchanged looks of amazement.
Things we would have done differently
Jack and Ness agreed on this one. Go on a proper holiday. Not just a series of long weekends. Seth would have realised rich and famous people live in Camberwell. He certainly wouldn’t have said those terrible things about Peter Costello (our former Treasurer), especially not to his daughter, who just happens to work there.
‘How was I supposed to know?’ He said, in self- defence. ‘I live in Vermont.’
Andrew couldn’t think of anything he would do differently. Neither could Monique. This is what I call a sly dog moment ‒ an invitation to journalistic license. Andrew in fact, wished he’d learned to appreciate Biskit more. And Monique regrets spending so little time with him. At least, that’s what it says in my notes. Then again … you can’t believe everything you see in print.
Phoebe wished she hadn’t spent so long procrastinating over these questions. In fact, she could probably say the same of every essay she has written this year. Liz would have made the decision to axe the first five chapters of her novel much sooner. She looks forward to finishing it in 2011.
Things 2011 might hold
Phoebe and Andy will enjoy a late honeymoon in Africa. Andy looks forward to standing on top of Mt Kilimanjaro, whereas Phoebe wants to lay on the beach. Jack and Ness have a perfect alignment of aspirations — to get away from Canberra. Fortunately, this is achievable, as Ness has a four month CHOGM assignment in Perth.
After Seth’s great start at the Rivoli Cinemas, he is considering a change of employment in 2011. While Monique looks forward to recovering from her knee operation, playing in the Physio and Boyfriends mixed netball team, and finishing her degree. Priya looks forward to starting TAFE and living her new ‘independent’ life. But Andrew Corbett wants only one thing — peace in our home.
Well friends, a family dog has many responsibilities. It’s not all wags and bones, I can tell you – and this has been a difficult year. As it draws to a close, there are gaps in the family. A great deal of hurt. But Liz wanted me to tell you, God is good, and they are coping. We trust that it is the same for you. As you reflect on the year past, and look forward to the one ahead, we trust you will have peace in your heart ‒ and in your homes too.