Back in 1994 I spent Christmas ‘on my own’ for the very first time. My tiny apartment (actually an ancient single-wide mobile home) was only a few miles from my parents’ little farmhouse, but felt like a world apart. Everything that had always meant so much to me at Christmas time was back home with them. I visited their house, and we exchanged gifts and did all the usual holiday stuff, but it was different not living there with them. Back at my place I did put up a tree that year, but it was tiny and had very few ornaments. I remember thinking that I’d be lucky to get any Christmas cards at all, since most people I knew would be unaware that I had moved out on my own.
I borrowed my parents’ Christmas card list and sent the people on it a card. I included a little holiday form letter, because I’ve always enjoyed those. I splurged on postage and shipped them out. I say ‘splurged’ because (if I remember correctly), I was barely clearing $800 a month, and after paying rent and other bills, was just scraping by. I felt that sending a little Christmas cheer (and letting loved ones know where I was and what I’d been up to) was worth it.
After a few days, the reply Christmas cards started to show up in my mail box. Cards from cousins, and aunts and uncles, from Grandparents, and family friends. Each one brought with it a little bit of Christmas magic, and I displayed them around my living room proudly. With every card I opened, and every letter I read – my shabby little trailer started to feel more like a home. My home. From then on I made an effort to always send Christmas cards when the holidays rolled around each year.
That was long ago, and my card list has changed over the years. As time has passed, many have moved on or passed away. New friends and co-workers have been added. Others have slipped away when cards came back ‘undeliverable’. Every year the list is a little different than it was the year before.
Regardless of the changes it may go through, when I glance through this list is like looking at a who’s who of my life, and it always makes me smile.
This year I reviewed my list (as I always do), and tried to decide if I should trim it down at all. In the end I chose not to remove anyone (and in fact added a few). I wrote a letter (technically it was a little comic strip chronicling the year for our family), signed cards and stuffed envelopes. Just like in 1994, soon the reply letters/cards started to come in.
Cards from our immediate family came first, followed closely by those from dear friends, long ago classmates, relatives from all over, and former co-workers.
It never fails. Photos of children decked out in Santa hats make me laugh. Newsletters filled with highlights from fun vacations and birth announcements warm my heart. The best (by far) are any that include a personal message. This year, a favorite came to me from my very first employer. She runs an in-home daycare center, and I worked as her helper for a summer when I was 15 (over twenty years ago, for anyone keeping track). With her Christmas card this year, she included a three page hand written letter. It was full of news and memories and questions and reminded me fully of just how fun she is, and why she was on my list to begin with. A sweet letter from such a wonderful lady, really made my day.
Personal greeting like that one, remind me why I bother with Christmas cards to begin with. Connecting (or reconnecting, as the case may be) with people from our lives who were (and still are) important to us…. That’s what it’s all about. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t require long letters. I love every card or letter I get this time of year (emails and Facebook greetings are great too). Any contact from special friends, past or present – is priceless to me.
You see, though the list has changed – one (very important) thing remains constant. Each card, letter, holiday photo, and friendly greeting…they all bring with them a little bit of that Christmas magic that I love so much.
If you aren’t on my Christmas card list, let this be my greeting to you! I hope you have a Merry Christmas and that the new year brings you and yours a time of health and happiness..