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A Case for Christmas Cards

Every Christmas, it seems there’s more and more to do. Ironic that a holiday that should be about inner qualities of peace and joy, by its very over-eventfulness, robs us of those sweet sentiments and prayers for quietness and rest and joy that we send to family and friends.

That is, if you’re one of those people who like to send Christmas cards.

Every year, I argue with myself. Cards or no cards? Picture or no picture? Should I send the Merry Christmas email that has become more and more popular in a world going for the most responsible environmental stance? Considering the expense, work, and time involved, do I need to do this? Should I scrap it altogether?

For some reason, this tradition has stuck with me from the time I was a child. I’m not sure why, but I have these vivid memories of helping my mom update her address list in her tattered paper address book and checking off the column in the year when we’d finished writing the card. I liked remembering everyone as we went card by card, asking Mom several questions about who those people were and where she met them and how come we don’t see them more often. I’m sure she got tired of it.

This year, I went further than usual. Having joined a Stampin Up stamp club this past year, I thought I’d spend the money I’d usually spend on buying cards on supplies to make them.

After all the supplies came, and I started to make them, then I remembered I usually send out 100 cards a year. I think I remembered that on card 16.

I know what you’re thinking: you don’t really know that many people, right? Surprisingly enough, I do. And though some I don’t see anymore, I think about them often. I especially thought of them yesterday as I organized and purged many of the cards given to us over the past decade.

I had expected to throw more of them away than I did.

There were so many Christmas cards, all of them different, some with names inside, others with special notes, some with typed letters, but almost all contained something I didn’t expect to value: the sender’s very distinct hand-writing.

I know handwriting analysts will psychoanalyze the way each of us slant or crunch or expand our letters and give us all sorts of conditions we never knew we had, but there is something about handwriting that often captures the essence of our memories of that person who wrote it.

I smiled and laughed and cried as I saw the familiar lines of my dad’s letters, or my grandparents – all four of whom are now departed, some for almost 15 years – just reading their own letters made me feel like they were with me somehow.

I gasped and sighed when I saw one huge stack of cards I’d kept from my dad’s funeral, the sheer volume of people – most of whom I hadn’t seen in so many years – who’d bothered to write me a personal card saying they were sorry he was gone and what they remembered about him best. What really stuck out to me was how many of these same people sent cards again that Christmas, recognizing how hard that first Christmas would be after he left.

I had heard others talk about how bittersweet the holidays can be, but I forgot that its partly because so many memories come up of people you wish were at your house drinking apple cider and playing games or watching the snow fall, the ones from whom time or distance or moves or death separates you.

But I realized how important these memories were. And I also realized how poor my own memory is on its own.

I’d forgotten most of these cards or even what some of these people did. I’d forgotten how meaningful and plentiful the cards were the year Noelle was born, three weeks early (she was due Dec 21) but on the only day of snowfall that year. I’d forgotten how many people simply cared, or thought good things about us and our family.

So I didn’t throw that many away, but at least they’re all in one place now, a box in the newly organized craft room/office.

And next to me sits a box of 100 home-made Christmas cards and 100 pictures to send out whenever I finally get to it. There’s time of course. My aunt told me last year I was always the first Christmas card of the season, so I think I can wait a little longer.

But I also think I’m going to enjoy it.

I didn’t know the last Christmas I’d have with my dad was 2002, also my first Christmas as a married woman. I didn’t know the last Christmas with my beloved fellow hockey fan and Grandfather would be the following year, or that the next Christmas would be my last one before becoming a mother, or that 2008 would be my last Christmas without cancer, or that 2009 would be my last Christmas without the grannie we were all so close to.

I’m glad I kept the cards. Maybe someday, hopefully a long, loooooonnnnng time from now, someone will find an old card with my handwriting on it, and maybe they’ll remember that time we did a chinese fire drill in our slippers on the way to Superstore, or the girls trip we did to Disneyland only months before I was pregnant with Noelle, or that random class we had together or those years we worked together, raised kids together, ate dinners together, smiled and laughed together, or were simply in the same place at the same time, every week, every month, or even every year.

Because, really? You can’t put a pricetag on that.

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