I love sending and getting Christmas cards, and it pains me that the tradition seems to be dying out. With Facebook and email, people just aren’t sending cards through the mail like they used to. I think that’s tragic. I refuse to succumb to this new normal, though, so my Christmas cards got mailed this week. Tucked inside each card was an even older tradition/dinosaur – the Christmas letter. Now I fully acknowledge that Christmas letters are passé, but I just can’t give them up. I write them with the hope that I’m staying in touch with people who have been important in my life but that I have little current contact with. And. I write them as a special kind of diary for myself.
See, I have a notebook that contains nearly all the Christmas letters I’ve written. From 1984 until this year, I am missing four years. I’ve just spent the last hour or so reveling in the last thirty plus years of my life. In 1984 – the first one – Sam was not yet in school, Amy was in kindergarten, Hillary in second grade. Karl had knee surgery and I wasn’t even a teacher yet. Since then each letter chronicles how our three children grew up and moved out, and how we changed states, houses, jobs and dreams. There are terrific highlights. The first mention of my cat and our terrific sons-in-law Jason and Bret, introducing Sam’s wife and our new granddaughter Madison make me smile. As my technology advanced, letters evolved from dot-matix pages with stickers embellishing the margins to inserted pictures of smiling faces in color and with captions. One of my favorite letters includes small pictures of each family member, including an ultrasound of Peyton before we knew she was Peyton.
The letters are telling for what they say and also for how the news is phrased and what got left out. As I read them, I feel again the pride of accomplishments and also the loss of loved ones, ended relationships, or news of hardships or sadness. Of all the letters, Karl has written one. I remember that year. I was discouraged and world-weary and just couldn’t muster the joy necessary for writing. He stepped in, and that too documents how he’s always been the rock and support of this family.
Maybe some year I’ll decide to stop mailing Christmas cards and letters. I certainly have pared down the mailing list. But I think that even if I don’t mail them, I want to continue to write a yearly Christmas letter. Something healthy and important happens when I encapsulate the year into seven or eight hundred words. It helps me focus on the blessings and dwell on the positive.