Playing My (Christmas) Cards Right
It’s that most wonderful, horrifying time of the year: time to decide who gets a Christmas card and who doesn’t. Do we send a card to everyone in our address book, or just close friends and relatives? Do only those people who sent us a card last year get one this year?
I’m not quite sure, but I think that’s how it worked in my childhood home. I remember that mom had this special hardbound address book with a rubber band around the outside and tattered pages inside. Every year, sometime after Thanksgiving, she would bring it out from whatever super-secret place it hid all year, blow the dust off the thing, carefully remove the aging rubber band and slowly lift its faded green cover.
Don’t hold me to it, but I could swear I heard the sound of angels singing each time mom opened that book, revealing pages of beautifully hand-written names of chosen family and friends.
Talk about your naughty and nice list. This thing was like the Christmas Card Book of Life. There was a small square in the columns next to each name to check off the years not only when our family sent that person a Christmas card, but more importantly, whether or not the recipients sent one to us that year, as well.
Again, I can’t be certain, but I’m pretty sure that if there was a blank square in the “received” column for last year, that poor schmo was gettin’ squat in their mailbox from us this year. Booyah and bah humbug.
I’m not even sure if mom still has that book. If she does, I live too far away from her house these days to hear the angel chorus when she opens it up.
But times are changing when it comes to sending traditional cards anyway. With the near universal use of the Internet, more people are sending e-cards or my personal favorite – custom-printed photo cards from one of several online services that let you insert your own family photos into pre-designed card formats. You can even upload your own address book data and have each card pre-addressed and mailed for you without ever touching the things. It’s certainly convenient, if not exactly personal and heartfelt.
I still prefer to hand write each address and include some sort of note with our cards. Although I do dread each year when we address the last of the envelopes (I have a tendency to order exactly the number of cards on our list), affix the last of carefully counted “holiday-themed” stamps from those politically correct folks at the U.S. Postal Service, and drop the entire stack into the mailbox.
So why such trepidation? Because it never fails that – when all the cards and stamps are in the mail – I’ll go home and find a card or two from someone who hasn’t sent us a card in years, or ever, and who we didn’t send one to this year. Arrrghhhhh! Will they hate us now because they aren’t getting a card from us? Should we rush out and buy one just for them? Grit our teeth and hope they don’t notice and be sure to send one next year? What if it’s too late and they cross us off their card list? Oh, the pressure.
As I write this, my wife and I haven’t decided if we’ll even send out cards this season. With our kids spread out further and further across the country each passing year, it’s almost impossible to get a photo of all of us to put on a card. Last year for the first time, in fact, our “family” photo card featured just my wife and me. No kids. Quite honestly, it made me feel less than holly and jolly to send them out.
Yep, it looks like we may be on several naughty lists next year.
I’ll see you ‘round town.