It’s that time of year again: Time to start thinking about Christmas cards (at least according to Shutterfly, Pinterest and all the other services catering to organized, crafty mothers).
Few things fill me with as much simultaneous excitement and dread as Christmas cards.
The ‘excitement’ part goes back to my childhood. My mom used to make a whole day out of preparing her Christmas cards. She would bring out her address book (an actual, padded address book with alphabetical index tabs), flipping through the pages, making edits to entries of those who had moved during the year. She would write a little personal note in each card and address each envelope in her perfect, ‘deserves-her-own-font’, script.
This ritual officially marked the transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas-time and was as important and special as baking the Christmas cookies or putting up the tree.
Even more exciting was the arrival of everyone else’s Christmas cards. I loved going to the mailbox to collect all of the colorful envelopes with their holiday themed stamps, filled with the anticipation of the festive card inside. My mom had (and still has) a special basket where she would collect all the cards and the family photos people had enclosed in them. At least a couple times a week, I would snatch the basket off of its home on the piano and sit with it in my lap, flipping carefully through the cards, taking inventory of all our friends and family. A lap full of love and holiday wishes from across the miles.
Fast-forward 30 years….
Just like when I was little, I still love receiving Christmas cards, but instead of a basket, I display them all on a giant knock-off Pottery barn card holder so that I can look at all of them every day.
But then there’s the ‘dread’ part.
Over the years, the lovely padded address book has turned into an automated system involving a spreadsheet and shoving stacks of envelopes through the printer.
The hand written cards were initially reduced to photo cards where we would at least write a little “Hope the year ahead is the best yet!” on the back. Eventually, we just started having the kids form an assembly line, one stuffing generic photo cards into the envelope, the other stamping it. (This once resulted in a very expensive Christmas when my then 3-year-old daughter thought stamps were just fun stickers).
The dread doesn’t really come from doing the Christmas cards, it comes from knowing that this automated, non-personalized system doesn’t feel like it would fill anyone’s card-basket with love and warmth, but just with another card to recycle at the end of the month.
So, I tried pulling aside some of the cards before mailing them; to add a special hand-written note in the ones for some of my closest friends or for the people I haven’t spoken to in ages.
And they would sit, and sit, getting shoved from one to-do pile to the next. Every time I glanced at them, my mind filling with a thousand things I wanted to write in their card and then I would glance away and they would be forgotten for another day…week…month….until it’s no longer the holidays. Better late than never? It can be a nice “Happy New Year” card.
Last year, I thought I would make it super easy on myself. Shutterfly had a promotion for 10 free holiday cards. That’s it! I would just send out 10 cards to family and distant friends and then put a scanned copy of the card on my Facebook page for everyone I missed. Easy, environmentally friendly and we put the money we saved on cards and postage toward a local charity.
The problem? Even with only 10 cards, as I sit here a year later, two of them are still sitting on my desk, staring at me, waiting to be filled with warm holiday (2013) wishes. (Sorry, Virginie V, your envelope is even addressed. And sadly I don’t even recall who the last card was for.)
Even worse, those two cards are sitting on top of THREE Christmas 2012 cards. The 2012 cards are even addressed and ready to go, but victim to the ol’ “Oh, she lives 5 houses down and a see her every week, I’ll just hand deliver it….two years later…..” (Aline & Lisa, I’ll be bringing your cards by any time now.)
These cards would be on top of a much bigger stack, but last year I finally gave up and tossed the giant pile of cards from pre-2011, mostly comprised of ‘return to sender’ cards that had been sent to old addresses. I carefully set them aside so I could remember to shoot a note and get a new address to update my spreadsheet……and then….oh look….a funny video on Facebook…..
So here I sit, yet again, filled with dread about clicking on the Shutterfly email link to their holiday card promotion. Do I order 10 and try the thoughtful handwritten note route again? Should I go back to the 100-card, child-labor assembly line method?
Two things are for sure: Next year at this time, I’ll be staring down at at least two unmailed 2014 Christmas cards. And, chances are, if you don’t receive a card from me, it just means that I cared enough to pull out your card to write a personal note……and that staring at your card every day makes me think nice warm thoughts of you all year long.