“People don’t still send Christmas cards, do they?” A friend said half-jokingly on Twitter.
Well, yes I do, I explained. I buy charity cards. Nowadays I buy from the School for Therapy, Education and Parenting of Children with Multiple Disabilities (STEP Centre) in Kingston, which was built by the Digicel Foundation. They have a range of lovely cards.
Why do I still write and send Christmas cards? Well, it is partly because a number of our friends and family live abroad. If they don’t hear from us, they will say, “Did we hear from ….? I wonder if they are OK?” Just as we do if we don’t hear from them.
Because it’s a ritual, you see. A once-a-year thing that one does. It is also, for me, an annual reflection on aging, and the passing of time.
I have a routine. I start at the address book with the letter “A” and work my way through. If I run out of cards (or time, whichever comes first) then those towards the end of the alphabet might not get a card. But I am always determined to see it through.
The first letter of the alphabet caused me great sadness, last year. One of my oldest friends (family name beginning with “A”) from my young days living in Japan, has written to me faithfully over decades. I think she partly did it to practice her English (which was always good) and just to keep in touch. She used to write several pages, about her family and travel with her husband. I would write back with all our news. We continued our yearly letters after her husband passed away, enclosed in a card of course. The letters gradually became shorter; at the end of the last one, she said, almost in a shy way: “I don’t think we can continue to write to each other, any more.”
In effect, it was a goodbye letter.
I have not taken her name off my Christmas card list. Hers was always the very first card that I wrote. I don’t want to lose her.
Nevertheless, I press on. The list has grown shorter over the years. We have lost touch with some people (we started feeling there wasn’t much point). Others have passed on. Then there are those we always keep contact with, who scribble notes inside: “Hope to see you next year!” “When are you coming over?” The year passes, and we find ourselves writing the same thing over again…and again.
The Christmas Card List is many things. It is many memories, some regrets. Life, moving along inexorably, the water slipping quietly under the bridge.
It’s also wishing things would go back to the way they were, somehow. But knowing that they never will.
And then, there are e-cards. I will do my best with those…