Now that the holidays are over, it may be time to sort through the holiday news, well wishes, and greetings we received through the mail.
Who sends and who gets Christmas cards anymore?
Not too awfully many, I suppose. I gave up mailing cards maybe 10 years ago and have resorted to email since then, at first composing a rambling letter with many photos and then gradually through the years dwindling down to a Powerpoint calendar format, as you see at left: one or two big pics for each month and a pithy comment to go with.
This year my wife Jennifer and I received about a dozen such season’s greetings in the mail. As I count and sort ’em, they are
- Two postcards with photos on one or both sides
- One sheet printed one side with family photos and captions
- Five typed letters of various length, with or without photos
- One hand-written card with photo
I can see why I stopped writing long Xmas letters: who has time to write or even read ’em? And unless you’re an experienced writer, the details tend to be rolled out in humdrum fashion. Yes, these are the lives of friends and relatives you haven’t seen in a while, and you miss these people but you want to go deeper, into the interior, even the heart of darkness, and these tend to sweetness, blitheness, blither & light.
We are happy, of course, that your family is doing well:
- You survived an attack of the dread Covid
- You lost one job and picked up another
- You summered in your home state
- You visited friends with pets
- Yes, you love dogs, dogs, dogs
- You went to Paris and the Louvre, where they keep some wowser art
- Your kids are surviving, working and marrying
- You bought a guitar, flew half across the country to see friends, suffered from MS, MD, AD, ALS, or other acronymical disasters
- The twins turned 17, is it possible, and you joined a book club
These titbits are not boring, they’re simply not in the context of a novel or coherent, compelling narrative, a transfixing fiction or poem. The details don’t seem to add up; they miss the point, which is what?
As I know from my calendrical missives, that’s the trouble with trying to sum things up and wrap them in a tidy package with a bow.
Here’s us, sitting on the living room sofa. Here’s our dogs. Bow wow.
Perhaps I was most affected by the one hand-written card from a young academic couple. It’s a card with a photo on the front showing the couple, a dog (woof), a Christmas tree, and a new baby in mom’s arms. The greeting is “Happy Holidays” and, verso, “From our family to yours, wishing you a joyful holiday season!”
Yes, love and joy come to you, with or without the accouterments of religion, or ideology, for it’s that time of year, isn’t it, when we should be able to lay aside our sadness and grief and anger, and recognize in each other our common humanity?
Why not? Don’t we get tired, after all, of shaming and blaming our political enemies and ducking disease and sticking our head in a hole?
And I read in the five paragraphs, in a neat tiny hand, how our Chinese-American friend, a young woman I met here in Fayetteville and hiked with for a year or so, is now happily married; is stressed out by her teaching schedule at Purdue and her publishing a book that one reviewer called “eccentric” (thatta girl!); and had a baby girl just before Thanksgiving named Aine (Gaelic for joy) Mei (Mandarin for plum blossom).
Now if a name like Aine Mei doesn’t presage joy and love and laughter in this daughter, a poetic and blissful life, I don’t know what will!
Yes, love and joy come to you, and to you good wassail too, dear friends and family, through the year. And keep on writing those cards, won’t you, full of feelings and events that may add up to a story after all, a story that may stir the world.