Christmas cards used to be a big part of our family tradition. They were always one of a kind, designed by Neil and I. For the very first one, we cut our faces out of a family photograph and pasted them on to hand drawn snowmen. We had such fun that we kept it up year after year.
One of my favorites was the five of us standing next to a row of life sized nutcrackers. Another was a regular appearing family photo into which an extra Colleen and Jackie were added. Everyone thought there were two sets of twins. One year we glued our faces into the windows of a black and white sketched camper that was decorated with festive red and green Christmas lights. Another favorite was our family pasted on to the back of the Grinch’s sleigh, with the Grinch himself copied into the driver’s seat. And I can’t forget the year that featured our faces hidden in a sea of toys in “Where’s Waldo?” fashion.
All these cards were made the old-fashioned way: “cut” with scissors and “pasted” with glue. The prototype was then printed at the local copy shop and sent out to at least fifty friends and family members. The cards were always a topic of conversation for weeks afterwards, sometimes credited as being clever and creative, other times deemed down right creepy (the ones with disembodied heads usually fell in this category). Each year we started our quest for another perfect idea long before we thought about gifts or decorations. Neil and I giggled and sketched gleefully while our daughters usually looked on simply shaking their heads in a combination of amusement and disbelief.
After Neil died, my enthusiasm for the Christmas card project evaporated. There was no one left in my empty nest to help brainstorm, and there just wasn’t enough time to accomplish the whole process by myself. I sent out a handful of store bought cards these last two years, nothing like the imaginative or personal ones of days past, and this weekend I thought about what a shame that is.
As part of the post-Christmas cleanup, I piled the cards I received on to the dining room table. I reread them one last time, praying for each sender as I did, appreciating the different styles. Some were simply signed in agreement with the card’s printed sentiment; others were lovely photos of family events; still others modern Christmas letters with updates from the year past. I realized what a compliment it is to receive a Christmas card. A post on Facebook or an Instagram photo is more convenient and efficient at updating friends and family of life events and communicating Christmas greetings. The people who sent me cards thought enough of me to share an individual message, taking the time to find my address and write out their card, and I am grateful. Their kindness feels warm and intimate, and made me realized I still want to share that sense of personal kindness with people, too.
So, accepting that the days of creating those handmade family cards are past, and that the time between Christmas and Thanksgiving is unavoidably full for me, I am starting a new tradition. During each week in 2018 I will write a note to someone I care about. It will be a simple message to let them know they are in my thoughts and prayers, and share what’s new in my life. It can be to people near or far, old friends with whom I’ve lost touch, teachers who touched my life, or relatives I haven’t seen in years, but with fifty-two opportunities, I can make each one special.
So, if you’ll excuse me, I am off to write a note to my cousin.