Many Happy Returns

Jon Reiner
4 min readDec 26, 2015


Dear Aunt Sally,

Thank you for your Christmas gift that arrived yesterday. You can imagine my surprise when I opened the box and pulled out an Arctic Explorer parka with fur-trimmed hood and insulated hand pockets. How toasty! Unfortunately, we don’t get much call for wearing goose down in Tucson, so I exchanged the coat for a tilting patio umbrella and ice tongs. I hope you’ll understand. It’s 103° here today. I’ve got a cold compress on my head. The natives call it Holiday Hell. Looking forward to having you and Mom down here in February. We’ll make sure this year to stock up on Melba toast.



P.S. I hear that Cousin Alice and Stevie got a big dog! OMG, how will he fit with all the bookcases in that tiny apartment?

Hi Uncle Winston,

How unexpected it was to place a gift from you under our little Christmas tree, which we opened this morning. Thank you enormously for the books. I had no idea that an eight-volume History of the Boar War even existed! They’re very heavy. What you may not know is that since converting to e-book readers, Stevie and I ripped out the bookcases in our studio apartment and used the lumber to build a sleeping loft for our new Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Tevye. He really loves having a space to call his own. I hope you don’t mind, but I exchanged the books for an air conditioner we’ll install above Tevye’s loft. He’s such a great dog. You can meet him if you ever get into the city, again. Sorry about the last visit, but I don’t think your car will get towed this time as the No Parking signs are now more clearly marked. Actually, you might be better off coming in on the bus. Bring a book to read and the time will fly. Thank you, hugely, for the large gift and Happy Holidays to Cousin Jerome.


To @watersoftenerking: u sent me a water softener instead of poinsettias I ordered. Xchanged for an Arctic Explorer parka. @cousinjerome #ihatewatersofteners

To Whom It May Concern: A delivery truck with your company’s name on it woke me up at 5:00 a.m. on Christmas morning, and the driver — Guss, yes, his name had two “s”s — badgered me to sign for receipt of four-dozen poinsettias. I explained to Guss that my name and address (Sandy Olivetti, 45 West 9th Street) were not even close to the information on the delivery slip (Jerome Singer, 17 Plowman Lane), but he insisted I ordered the poinsettias even though I didn’t, and I don’t even like them! They belong in a bank lobby. In case anybody is paying attention, I exchanged the poinsettias for a security video camera system. And I still haven’t received the water softener I order two weeks before Christmas. Cordially — S.O.

Dear Briscoe,

This morning I opened the lovely gift you sent me. What is it? I couldn’t tell if it was a radio or some kind of computer thing. I asked Duncan from across the hall, since he does something in computers. He wasn’t sure either. He said a word that sounded like “wormware.” I guess you would know what he’s talking about. I don’t know what anybody’s talking about anymore with all this computer business. Anyway, I exchanged your gift for a set of samba classes. You’re so nice to think of me that way, but I’d rather be dancing!



Dear Mom,

Thank you for the boxed fruitcake that was delivered on Christmas Eve, just in time! Guss and I couldn’t get over how much it looks like the one you received last Christmas for your volunteer work as a docent at the Tourmaline Museum. You know the one I mean — it’s been sitting on the floor of your laundry room, propping open the door when the drier runs hot. I saw it when we visited last summer. Remember? I picked it up, and you said, “Leave that fruitcake box on the floor! It works better than the brick. I banged my foot on the brick and couldn’t dance for a month!” That would explain the lint and torn dance stocking clinging to the bottom of the box you sent. Perhaps that’s just a coincidence. Anyway, I was planning to serve the cake for our big New Year’s Eve party, but I don’t think it travelled so well. I know that holiday candied cherries are supposed to be green, but to my eye there was A LOT of green on the cake. When I opened the box, I noticed an unusual stench, sort of a combination of seasonal rot and used drier sheets. I had to throw it away. Fortunately, those odorshield trash bags work pretty well, so even though there’s no garbage pick-up in our neighborhood until Monday because of the holiday, we only had a few complaints about the smell from the neighbors. One stickler on a mountain bike did call the town’s health inspector. Poor guy had to work on Christmas Day, just like Guss. However, he was happy to take the fruitcake back to his office for his assistant, and he gave us a load of poinsettias someone had returned. It all worked out. Hope you had a Merry Christmas. If you see Aunt Sally this afternoon, please tell her sorry about the water softener. The company said they’re back ordered, but she can exchange it for something else.

Happy Holidays,




Jon Reiner

Author, filmmaker, grocery shopper.