Yup, it’s that time of year again. Did I buy enough cards? Do I have current addresses for everyone? Can I get enough holiday theme stamps?
I don’t really remember when I started writing Christmas cards, but I think it was my first year in college. I was fresh off of high school graduation, having addressed envelopes to each of my aunts and uncles and grandparents stuffed with graduation announcements and once again with thank-you notes for the cash gifts they sent. I’m pretty sure I felt like it would be a nice (and terribly grown-up) thing to do if I sent them all holiday greetings as well, now that I was ‘on my own.’
Over the years, I have continued to send cards to friends and family, deviating once or twice to experiment with a holiday letter typed up on my computer or a photo collage of Bubba and I with the kids. Each time, though, I took the opportunity to at least sign my name by hand and address each envelope by hand. I’m not sure why. I don’t judge others who send computer printed envelopes or holiday newsletters – I’m thrilled to get the mail and hang the cards up in the house to make it more festive.
It was a week ago that I found myself in a book store and suddenly realized I had yet to purchase this year’s cards. I wasn’t my usually picky self, given that I only had a few minutes before picking Eve up down the street, but I still made certain to get a few different boxes of cards. I like hand-choosing which family or friend gets which message (for example, I always try not to send my cousins who are siblings the same card in case they ever compare notes), so having an assortment of cards is absolutely necessary. Yes, that’s a little over the top. No, I don’t care. It’s me. That’s the way I roll.
This morning when I sat down to begin writing the cards, I felt a momentary sense of drudgery and chalked it up to being so long out of my routine of writing and walking and reading. I wondered what would happen if I turned this task into a meditation. It turns out that was precisely what I needed today.
With each turn of the page in my address book, I took a moment to think about the next person or family I was sending holiday wishes to. I carefully chose which card they would receive, pictured them in my mind, and felt the pen flowing across the slick surface of the page. More often than not, a memory popped into my head about a time spent with them or something they once said, and by the time I had written the address across the front of the envelope and sealed it, I was filled with gratitude for their place in my life.
I made it through the “Es.” My maiden name started with E, so there are some pretty special people in that section of the address book, from my big brother to my Dad’s widow to my paternal grandfather. A couple of those envelopes aren’t sealed yet since I have to slip Eve and Lola’s school photos inside, and I took a minute to wonder what happens when these snapshots fall out of the card as they are opened. Do they instantly get compared to last year’s? Are there exclamations of delight or amazement at how much the girls have grown? Is there a desire to reach out and connect soon? I don’t know. What I learned from this morning, though, is that this ritual is a warm, grounding one for me. A reminder, as I sit quietly and write out a short sentiment, of just how important each of these people is in my life; a touchstone of connection, of shared history, for which I am grateful. I will never again begrudge the time I spend engaging in this special, simple practice of reaching out to those I love. Thank goodness my sense of duty twenty-some years ago called me to start sending holiday greetings. Thank goodness I stuck with it. Thank goodness it’s that time of year again.