Friday, December 7, 2012

We’ve got mail!

I've actually been stopping at the mailbox after work lately, which means only one thing—Christmas card season! I absolutely hate getting the mail. There's never anything good in there . . . except during one glorious month around Christmas. From the time the first card arrives, I'm excited to get the mail every day. And because I know there are some well-intentioned but less-than-organized people out there like me, I usually remain hopeful well into January that some rogue holiday greetings are still on their way.

I have loved Christmas cards as long as I can remember because they were one of my favorite traditions as a kid. Mom had this long piece of thick, soft red yarn. I can remember exactly the way it felt—with its individual strands twisted loosely around and around—as if it was sitting right here in front of me. Along with the yarn were little white paper hangers. We would hang the yarn up on the back side of the cupboards, facing the living room, and keep the pile of hangers handy. Every time a card came in, we would give it a little hanger and string it up on the yarn. By the time Christmas came around, we had a beautiful, eclectic, brightly colored banner of cards from all our friends and family. Even as a kid, I'd like to believe I knew that's what Christmas is about: reaching out, getting in touch, catching up, and connecting with the people you care about. And cookies. Don't forget the cookies.

Back then they really were cards. Now most of them are photo cards, and I love seeing all our friends and family and remarking, like the old person I swore I'd never be, how big the kids look. Getting a letter or a hand-written card is an even bigger treat. I'm a sucker for a letter. For some reason, Christmas has become a time when we put our whole year onto one page (or two or three—page limits were never really my thing), and I love reading these snapshots of people's lives. The highs and lows—for a few precious minutes you ride the roller coaster with them. And sometimes, if you happen to pull out last year's letters when you're getting out the Christmas decorations this year, you ride it all over again, but sometimes in very different ways. Those letters can be one of the most concrete reminders of how much can change over a year. They're a reminder to be thankful for whatever you have this year and to reach out to those around you, even if it's not as often as you'd like. Christmas is your excuse.

So keep those cards and letters and too-cute pictures coming, and we'll do the same—even if it's not until January.