December 14th, 2015

Holiday cards

Holiday cards–I love’em. I love all greeting cards, actually, but rarely do I get to send, or receive, so many all at once. I tend to buy most of mine at Boxing Day sales so I can afford the really glitzy ones with glitter and high-quality card stock, though sometimes the cheaper ones are too cute to pass up and sometimes I get caught out and have to buy cards at full price in December. But most years I am eagerly waiting all fall for it to be November–card-writing time. When I lived alone, I would start at the beginning of November and work on them on and off for a few weeks. Now, my husband asks me to wait until November 12 out of deference to veterans and just the natural order of things. So I do, but I am VERY excited to get out my cards and stamps and address book on November 12. I try to get everything into the mail for December 1, because I feel like that is the first acceptable day (a card in November would be weird) and I want to give people maximum time to have them up. I always used to feel sad if I got a card on December 24, knowing it would be up for only a few days before getting recycled. Then one year I realized I didn’t want to take down all the cards taped to my kitchen cupboards–who wants to look at blank cupboards–so I only slowly replace them as I receive birthday and other holiday cards throughout the year–but I realize most people don’t follow that procedure. I also use an otherwise empty curtain rod above my living room window to display some of the cards we got for our wedding three years ago.

So yeah, I like cards–writing, stamping, mailing, and yes, receiving them. But I am not concerned if people I send cards to do not send one to me. Most people don’t send holiday cards these days, which has three main advantageous effects that I can see:

  1. Even the cards with glitter on them are cheaper now. The popup ones remain expensive, but that’s pretty much it.
  2. If I forget someone from my card-sending list, that person isn’t sad because they weren’t expecting to hear from me in the first place, and
  3. Those people who do get a card from me are more delighted than they would have been 20 or 30 years ago, when many people got dozens of cards. Some people have told me that mine are the only cards they get in a season, and that they love them.

So I’m not surprised that I get back a fraction of the cards I send, though I do love those that I get. Some people, not card senders by nature, email or Facebook or text in response to the cards, which is lovely. Or they make sure to hit me up for coffee or a drink early in the new year. Or something else–anything else–to respond to my card in kind. Because what the cards say is, mainly, “Hey, I like you. I hope you’re doing good.” And there’s a million ways to say that.

It kind of alarms me when people freak out about not sending cards–that it’s such a beautiful tradition, such a shame that I just can’t do them anymore. This is of course usually untrue–anyone could buy a box of cards at the drugstore, order stamps online, and do up the whole box by staying up an hour late. If you don’t want to, I get that–lots of things are higher priority. Cards are one of my priorities, but they don’t have to be everyone’s. It’s silly to say can’t though.

Let’s face it–grown-ups don’t stay in touch too well. My friends have scattered over the world, but even locally, it’s hard to get people in the same room very often. We have to work at our jobs and, in the creative community, at our other jobs; commute; raise children; care for ill or elderly relatives, and/or be ill ourselves; clean our homes and cook food; spend time with our partners, pets, and families; sleep. And no one wants to talk on the phone anymore, for reasons I still don’t fully understand.

I grew up with the idea that you could care about people from afar, even if you don’t talk to them that often. My folks came to Canada in the 1970s, and often had only one or two long newsy calls or letters a year from people back in the States, often around the holidays. It makes sense to me that there will always be people I care about that I’m not in regular touch with–cards are one of a number of ways I maintain that bond.

Pretty much the only reason I would ever drop someone from my card list is if there were zero contact for several years in a row. I send you a card, you don’t send me one back–you’re busy, you’re out of town, you don’t like cards. And maybe we don’t get around to hanging out at all that year, and I send another card, and another year goes by, a few Facebook messages go unanswered, an email bounces…I might conclude that it’s best to stop bothering you.

Even if a friendship were getting weird or tense, I’d probably still send a card, and hope that could be either a step to improving things or a stopgap until I thought of something that could–it’s such an easy way to convey positive feelings, and you don’t really need to write a lot more detail. Happy holidays and all the best in the new year really does, in fact, suffice.

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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