Back in the “old” days, before scrapbooking became so popular, my mother made scrapbooks. Since we didn’t receive very many greeting cards ourselves, our church congregation helped with her projects by collecting cards they received and then giving them to my mother instead of throwing them away.
At Christmas time, we would come home from church with a sack of cards. I knew what was coming next. My job was to cut out the pictures on the front of the Christmas cards. This was no easy task. I was to leave a narrow white border around the edge of the picture to help set it off when it was pasted in the scrapbook. By the end of a cutting session, I had grooves in my thumb and fingers from the grip I had on the scissors.
Never was I allowed to do any pasting. She was the master of that. When the scrapbook was full, then it magically disappeared from my life. I have no idea what she did with them.
But to this day, I have a hard time throwing away Christmas cards. As I type these words, the cards from last year are laying right here beside me, in preparation for this year’s sending and receiving. I will take one more look through the assorted accumulation before finally discarding them. Every year the pile gets a little smaller.
In my first marriage, I was obligated to send Christmas cards to anyone I may have met briefly on the street. I recall sending out 200 one year. With today’s postage rates, that would be costly.
As the children grew older, they were each given a box of cards so they could send them to their friends. Writing in and addressing Christmas cards was a whole day project, complete with music and hot chocolate.
Each year I send fewer than the year before. On top of last year’s cards are two boxes of new Christmas cards. With 30 cards to a box, right now it seems I’m sending out 60 this year. I try to buy early to get the ones that actually mention the reason for Christmas on them.
My plan has always been to write something creative and personal to each recipient. But the busy season arrives abruptly and I never seem to accomplish that. And now the new trend is sending Christmas newsletters.
I have a bad attitude about those newsletters. It seems to me they are more of a “bragging” newsletter. Sometimes I don’t even read them; all typed, bordered and impersonal. I just glance at the signature. One handwritten sentence would be preferable.
I’ve been doing my own little survey about Christmas cards and who sends them. Some people actually don’t do Christmas cards any more. Others only send to people that don’t live in the same town with them, since they see the local people all the time. Others send to only family.
Each year, for over 40 years, the first card I received was from Nina Weidner. She was my neighbor as a child back in Kansas. She had a daughter my age…Jeannette. But Jeannette had cerebral palsy and was confined to a wheelchair. I became Jeannette’s best friend.
Even though I married and moved away, I still kept in touch with Nina. When I had my first child, I visited her. As I proudly laid my little girl in her arms, the tears slowly rolled down her cheeks. She was so delighted. Then I gingerly placed my baby in the lap of Jeannette. Noises that only a few could recognize emitted from Jeannette as she squealed her pleasure.
Nina had been a solid and secure person in my shaky and insecure world.
Last year, her Christmas card never came. I went online and tried to find her. I called the last telephone number I had for her. In a world full of lights, glitter and toys, that little cheap card signed with her shaky handwriting meant so much to me. And now she’s gone.
For me, it all boils down to the personal touch.
I won’t be sending cards out of duty…or because someone’s feelings may get hurt if they don’t receive one. To send a Christmas card is to say to someone important in my life that I am remembering them at this special time of year.
And just maybe, this year, I’ll take the time for that one handwritten sentence that will give them the personal touch I desire.
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