Monday, December 02, 2013

Snail Mail Tradition

The Visible Woman...connects.

It's that time of year when I design a holiday card (or occasionally buy some) and then peruse a Microsoft Access database deciding which of my friends, family and acquaintances will receive a card in the mail. At the moment there are over 600 rows in said database. However, I only had 150 cards printed. I clean up the database this time of year, eliminating the deceased (there are always some of these in the last few years) and also letting go of entries for people I've lost track of---where I haven't had a good address in years. Let's be honest: some people stay in the database just to remind me that once I knew them and perhaps even counted them as friends. Others were placed on the list temporarily and I just couldn't eliminate them for some friends of my parents that I'd invited to events for them.

I pick out a set of people I want to communicate with, however impersonally, at least during this once a year flurry of envelopes and stamps. I favor people we've been seeing a lot as well as those who are far away but in our thoughts. I also favor people who send cards themselves. Admittedly there are people we see who aren't in this database. We've just never had occasion to collect a postal address. And there are people I'll probably never see in person again but with whom we faithfully exchange cards.

I rather enjoy sending them and, to be honest, I enjoy receiving the cards from others. Already we've received two from friends and two or three from businesses or non-profits. I even like the long letters surveying a family's year. Often the only decorations in our apartment for the season are a bunch of colorful cardboard designs and glossy pictures of other peoples' kids and dogs.

As the years go by and we communicate less and less by mail I find the ritual feels more and more archaic and strange. Somehow, though, this makes it seem even more important.

A few cards have already arrived.

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