“Famlet” is a portmanteau, short for “family letter.” The origin of these letters traces back more than 35 years to my adolescence, and specifically to my paternal grandmother (*see below), who, in exchange for paying for half of our piano lessons (and later for significant portions of our college education and Latter-day Saint missions and probably other things I was never made aware of) asked that each of her grandchildren write her a monthly letter so she’d know what we were up to. In retrospect, it wasn’t an unreasonable request, but it seemed like one when I was a kid, and, I imagine like most of my cousins, I complied with it only sporadically, i.e., when my parents gave me grief about it, which wasn’t that often.
In 1998, however, four years into my own marriage and two years after becoming a father, I had an epiphany of sorts and finally started writing my grandmother the monthly letters she’d asked for all my life. I mailed (remember mail?) copies of the letters to my parents and maternal grandparents as well. My mother suggested that other family members might be interested too, so I started an E-mail distro list that quickly grew to several dozen relatives, some of whom I’ve never actually met, and most of whom almost certainly never read it. When a close relative, however, asks me a question that betrays his failure to keep up with the Famlet, my response invariably begins with, “As I wrote in my letter…” This could be one of the reasons I am not the very most popular person in my family.
The letters have become less informative and at times more sarcastic since my grandmother’s passing in November 2001. But for reasons more complex than I can understand, I keep writing them.
Grandma Willis was my last surviving grandparent. I suppose it’s possible she (and my other grandparents, who died in 1997, 1999, and 2001) have web access where they are, but I expect they have better things to do than read my monthly letters. The letters now go to my children’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and now to anyone else who stumbles upon this Website.
I hope you enjoy getting to know my nuclear family a little better.
*My paternal grandfather (following the examples of his father-in-law, George J. Cannon, and his father-in-law’s father-in-law, Heber J. Grant) was probably the driver behind paying for piano lessons, missions, and college, and such. I imagine he read my letters, too, but let’s face it, Grandma was the inspiration.