Dear friends and family,

It’s hard to know how, this year, to start a Christmas letter. Last year I sent out a card with a cartoon Santa, his bag full, not of presents but of doves. This card that I first sketched out many years prior of an old-world Father Christmas was the precursor. Since I’m laid up with the flu, anyway, I finally decided to finish it—though I no longer have a Rapidograph pen to do the job properly—because the sentiment feels more apt than ever.




To read: *10* Children’s Stories…

To do: Fun Activities with Kids…

To see: original Doll Clothes

To view: Neighborhood Gardens

Or survey: Berkeley Houses

…just scroll up the right sidebar on this page—if you’re on a computer—to Categories, where you will find all of the above—and more!

If you’re on a cellphone, scroll down from this post past Recent Posts and Archives to Categories.




I just realized that my category Fun Activities, while it included two pictures of my “Christmas dollhouse,” didn’t include one of the entire original dollhouse I created for Arielle. When she was two, after Michael’s birth, I used to visit her regularly at the family home just a few blocks from mine, until one day she asked wistfully, “Can I come to your house? Do you have toys for me to play with?”

So I went out and bought a car seat for her, stocked my apartment with books and toys, and built her a doll house out of colored poster board. It featured a bedroom with a wardrobe closet and drawers; a kitchen with a sink, dish drainer, and even a paper towel dispenser, as well as cabinets that opened and a stove with an oven; and a garden with a birdhouse, potted flowers, gardening tools, a watering can, and a pool with two turtles. Its inhabitants were Kelly dolls, Barbie’s younger sisters and brothers—and eventually we wound up with quite a collection of them!




Now the boat plows on—

the ocean heaving like a breast

laboring for breath—

a black flag beating from its bow,

past cliff sides

dotted with green,

shrubs like tumbleweeds

blown down from above.


Beyond, the city skyline—

skyscrapers sheered off by mist,

the shoreline shrouded in fog,

the bridge running off

into oblivion,

while the sea ripples like gooseflesh

under the wind.


When he was laid out,

a nurse told Arlen

he was a handsome man,

which pleased her,

though she had never thought so herself.

The nurses who shaved him every day

had let a mustache grow,

which became him, Arlen said,

and he had a sweet,

almost cherubic expression

in death.


Soon the sun breaks through,

turning the water to mercury,

and the sky is blue,

the clouds erased,

leaving wisps like chalk dust.


The boat stops

and we gather at the railing

while an attendant dumps

the contents of a brown plastic canister


a cascade of mortal debris.


It wasn’t until the nurse told me

I had to leave

that his limp fingers

tightened around mine.

Though his eyes never opened,

he hung on

and on.

She said again that I had to leave,

but he gripped my hand

and wouldn’t let go.


At latitude ____, longitude ____,

Harry came to rest,

once witty, reclusive, erudite, kind,

but sodden now,

rocking gently

on a wave.