coupleI had an aunt and uncle whose lives were perfect. They sent the most beautiful Christmas cards every year. They came in thick envelopes with stamps from foreign countries. It made sense because my aunt and uncle were constantly traveling. They moved from city to city, changing jobs and starting new lives with more friends, more money, more everything.

Their Christmas cards always came with a photo of them smiling, their arms wrapped around each other’s waists. One year they were rock climbing in Fiji, another they were skiing in Switzerland.

The card also included a letter sharing news of the year’s developments. There was my aunt’s executive promotion; my uncle’s sommelier certification; the arrival of a rescue kitten named Quiche. The tone of the letter was cheerful yet self-aware enough to know that writing a Christmas letter was a corny thing to do. “We wish we could catch up with each of you, but this dorky card will have to do.”

I taped the card to the fridge with the rest and when my mother got home from work she took it down and read it out loud, exaggerating the details.

“We climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in two hours, we discovered ancient cave drawings in Istanbul and then we flew to Mars, where Jenna befriended a Martian also named Jenna. Life is full of funny coincidences. We wish we could’ve seen you but our lives are better, fuller and we don’t actually like you that much.”

She closed the card and we laughed, but then I felt bad.

“I love them,” I said. “When I get older, I want to be like them.”

“I love them too,” she said. “It’s just different.”

The day after Christmas, it was the first card she threw away.

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Erica Peplin is a writer from Detroit. She’s been published by Hobart, The Brooklyn Rail and McSweeney’s. She lives in Brooklyn.

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