Sunday, December 02, 2007

Stay In Touch!

Holiday cards are, in a way, just a part of the excess that took over our world sometime in the latter half of the 20th Century. But for me they are the very best part of that excess. FFP and I had some picture cards printed at Costco and last weekend I printed out mailing labels and stamped my return address on the envelopes, applied the labels and slipped a card in each envelope after writing something on the back even if it was just 'Happy Holidays!' On Monday I bought stamps showing trees, reindeer, snowmen and teddy bears as if knitted on sweaters. I waved off the religious stamp when the PO guy showed me and I don't remember what it was. Mary and Child maybe? Yes, that's it. A reproduction of a painting in the National Gallery. (The Internet is so powerful in elucidating memories.)

The pile shown here is from the collection I received last year. It is pretty thoroughly described here.

What do I like about this tradition? I think first and foremost I like being forced to go through my mailing list database and think about the people behind the entries. I keep the list on Microsoft Access. It is not the most friendly program around and every year I do hand-to-hand combat with the merge function to print labels. I believe the list began under some program called DB-III or something and then was kept in a Paradox database and migrated to Access some years ago. One column I've maintained for years is a Yes of No question labeled 'XMAS.' When I extract labels for the cards I query that. This year a sprawling list of contact info was narrowed to about 200 labels for the cards. Before I ran the query I sorted through the list. I had to do the sad duty of deleting people who died since last I cleaned the list. I noticed a few people whose addresses were wrong and such.

Now I'm waiting for the other side of this process. The receiving of cards has already begun, of course, but only in a trickle. One is really an invitation to a party down the street. The other four send greetings with their family picture, just as we did this year. (Although we will never top the family portrait seen here.) Each card will be appreciated and scrutinized on this end. My haven't the kids grown! Save the envelope and make sure the address is in the database. Oh, they sent their clever family letter again...have to read that. How delightful to hear from them and know they are OK.

Even if this is the only time I hear a thing from someone the whole year I feel like we are maintaining a friendship across time and circumstance and against whatever odds. There is no Christmas tree at our house. I haven't even gotten out my usual outlandish toy decorations. But I'm going to be putting the cards I receive on the mantle and shelves and enjoying them until a day in early January when I flip through them one last time and think about how we will all change in the new year.

[The other holiday tradition I relish is Holidailies and Chip and Jette have outdone themselves this year. They even corrected the mistake I made in communicating with their site that I mentioned below. Jette selected my writing prompt for today, too, so I thought I better use it!]

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