Christmas Letters Keep Us Connected

When is a Christmas card not a card? When it’s a letter detailing every iota of a family’s life, including children, grandchildren, and their monumental success stories, and just looking to keep the reader posted.

A card is simple. You read the sender’s name and off into the basket it goes. But a letter? It’s a nice way to catch up with loved ones you’ve lost touch of over the year.
A card is simple. You read the sender’s name and off into the basket it goes. But a letter? It’s a nice way to catch up with loved ones you’ve lost touch of over the year.

A card is simple. You read the sender’s name and off into the basket it goes. But a letter? It’s a nice way to catch up with loved ones you’ve lost touch of over the year.

I receive no fewer than half a dozen of these dissertations at Christmas, usually accompanied with a family photograph of everyone smiling away. And they tend to be a bit envious.

Much as I’ve known and admired the Armen Harootians of Reading, Mass., I seem to learn more and more about their wondrous family. Just guessing, I would say the words belong to wife Pauline, only because she appears more formal than her husband when it comes to such protocol.

I can hear him now, “Hey, honey, did you get the letter out yet? Just got a raise at work and finished another construction project. Maybe we can also include that.”

“And what about one of our children getting that new job and moving in with us? The empty-nest syndrome we once enjoyed has now turned into a full house with grandchildren.”

I knew all about the Hall of Fame induction at Fitchburg State College, only because I had devoted an entire column to it before. But it didn’t hurt to hear all about it again in their Christmas letter. They kept the news pretty well guarded among their friends.

I did not know this was the 39th year the Harootians have circulated such a letter. Nor did I know husband-and-wife took a trip to Alaska. Last I heard, they were thinking about it.

“Beautiful country,” they write. “But not a place where we would want to live. It was wonderful to see the glaciers, learn about the Iditarod (sled dog races), meet some fantastic people, and actually see how they live.”

“Armen, of course, has some interesting videos he would have to share, if you have a few hours!!! We also took our annual trips to Florida, Maine, and Cape Cod. Great to have good friends in interesting places.”

Nice to also know that son Peter’s kids are pursuing sports in school. I can remember Peter running distances for the AYF and earning his share of Olympic medals like his dad. Now, there’s a third generation waiting in the wings.

It was especially nice to get Cora Der Koorkanian’s letter this year, only because I had established proximity with her late husband George, a political activist and strong ARF supporter. Cora is not Armenian but she’s more involved as a widow than half the people associated with our community. You gotta love this woman.

Nice to hear that Cora’s cruising through the Caribbean and visited her sister in Belgium, taking other trips to Alaska and Spokane. At home, she continues to occupy herself with her interpreting and translation work while active in community life.

Daughter Cora was active with the Lowell AYF and remains busy raising two children of her own.

Got to admit, I always look forward to the letter sent by Levon and Shirley Saryan. If there’s anything wrong with the world, they haven’t found it so long as there’s a Shangri-La within reach. Like the others, theirs also comes on Christmas stationery, wishing us continued health and happiness from the Milwaukee area.

Great to know that daughter Ani, 30, is finishing her third and final year as a resident physician at the University of Wisconsin Health Clinic, specializing in family medicine. She plans to start a practice with obstetrics.

Brother Armen is not to be denied. At 28, he has a burgeoning career in radio, working as a producer at Milwaukee’s leading station. Among his duties is producing the afternoon news, setting up commercials, weather, traffic, sports interviews, and in-calls. You can also catch him broadcasting Marquette University women’s volleyball and basketball.

It wasn’t too long ago that we caught the younger Saryans competing for Racine in the AYF Olympics and serving an executive capacity. No doubt, the training they received in the organization and influence from their parents has paid extreme dividends.

While wife Shirley continues her work as a diagnostic teacher for the Oak Creek Schools and serving as an elected official, husband Levon couldn’t stay retired after three decades as an industrial toxicology lab director. He’s now commissioner for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.

Getting a letter from a friend at Christmas is bound to put you in a good spirit. There’s seldom anything derogatory on the page, and its far more personal than a card or e-mail.

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.
Tom Vartabedian

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