I just finished my annual Christmas mailing. 15-20 glossy artworks with a sentiment inside, to go to those we see routinely–the ones who hear our monthly/ weekly/ daily tales of trial and satisfaction. Nearly 70 “correspondance cards” with a charming seasonal image on one side, and a brief but comprehensive summary of the Year in Soques on the other. This is the first year that I bought the image from a graphic artist; in years past we sent a decorated photo of My Sweetie, yours truly, and the girls. Since A didn’t make it here for Thanksgiving, it didn’t seem right to take the picture the way we usually do. Time marches on…
I enjoy this part of preparing for Christmas. I like reviewing the names; I smile at each one in my mind. I appreciate the challenge of rolling the year into half a page, trying to be accurate without being distressing and thorough without being tedious.
The former is where I struggle the most. The cliche of overly-sunny Christmas letters is there, I think, in part for this reason: what purpose is there in upsetting distant friends and relations with events they can only pray over? “I am at my wits’ end with this kid and I beat my head against the paneling as I weep,” while a winner in the honesty sweepstakes, is not what I want to have my aunt and uncle mull over for 12 months until the next installment. I think I said, “Music is where she puts her energy,” and left the rest alone. This year was not quite as artful as that, but I’m still grateful for the gloss of the one-sentence constraint.
I also like sending tangible mailpieces. A a goodly portion of my connections now choose email, or Facebook’s one-and-done, hope-you-see-it approach. But I think the decade I didn’t send cards has either slowed my card-sending maturity–or has made me treasure it more.
By Christmas 1997, I had two children under two. By Christmas 1998, I had two children under three and graduate school. The handy part of grad school was that it paused in mid-December; the less-handy part was the mere two weeks that remained. Two dedicated weeks in which to pull together a celebration that clearly would be the foundation of “But this is how Christmas always is!” for my growing girls. I planned Christmas preparation with military precision.
Like a good military strategist, I listed out my campaign objectives. And–key point–ranked them. I was not naive enough to think I could accomplish everything I envisioned without an inappropriately high cost–to my sanity, mostly. My Sweetie likely remembers this time as coming at too high a cost even with all the objectives I left on the floor.
Christmas cards almost never made the cut.
Oh, I would print off all the labels. I would compose the note. I would order 50, 60, 80 photo cards from Shutterfly…and recycle all but 20. The waste frustrated My Sweetie. He hated the idea of spending money and killing trees for my vague aspiration that this would be the year the cards would All Go Out. It happened just often enough for me to try each year…
…but not often enough to sustain the flow of cards to my house. By the time the tide of girl independence had turned in my favor, we were connected to only a small fraction of those we’d began with.
There are lost friends I still grieve over. Addresses I don’t have, that are hard to get and, frankly, feel awkward to chase down even though I have good interweb research skills. But that remembering is now part of my Christmas ritual as well.
Because, get this: I never beat myself up over not sending those cards. I never lost sleep over Christmas cards. I didn’t tie it to my ego, or my Required for Successful Christmas vision. I had absorbed boundary-setting quite well by that time, and could say no to anyone, especially and particularly my big-vision self.
Christmas cards, for me, are about lacing my community together. Once a year, we run ribbons of story and warm wishes into each other’s lives. And while I prefer adding a little tangibility to our mutual connections, even without it I can still wish Tanya all the interesting work projects and cherishing hugs she can hold in 2017. All the blessings of the season, Tanya!