Thursday, December 1, 2011

Oh Christmas Card!

Just got the mail and sure enough, an over-achieving Dear Friend (and FM) has already sent their Christmas card. Now don't get me wrong, I'm always excited at this time of year for the family update letters and cute pictures and beautiful cards.  I can nearly feel the love pouring off the wall as its decked with all of those dear people in our lives, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels a bit of pressure.  As soon as the first card arrives, it starts the countdown of how many more days until I must have mine done and will I find a good enough picture and should I write a letter and I don't feel creative and labels or should I hand write the envelopes and do I have a holiday sweater???

Frankly, I can't even think about the Christmas card until the house is decorated with holiday spirit.  Until we've made the sugar buzzed hour long drive while singing Bing & Frank to chop our perfect white pine and until our living room has the warm glow of brightly colored lights, I have promised myself not to even consider (let alone stress) about the Christmas card.

It has all become very predictable.  I start by saying that I'm cutting out the pressure and am not going to do a letter at all this year (I've never actually skipped a year); I just need to take / find a good picture of the family or the kids to send out.  When nothing is acceptable (even though there are 9,000 pictures from the year), I decide to pour a glass of wine and pull out the folder of old Christmas letters that we've written over the years.  When I read through them, it is like a little reunion of the happiest parts of our lives.  Some short snippets on a postcard, some hand-made, and others full color brochures*.  I remember distinctly which ones my DH helped write; more than once I've sat staring at the screen said, "Honey, I can't think of any possible way to spin the year we had into something positive; it was really rather terrible and I don't want to be fake."  He would shift me over in the seat and type, 
"Although many exciting things have happened this year, one "happening" clearly demands the most attention (literally).  That would be our son.  Thanks to being the first grandchild & nephew on all sides, he is never quite satisfied until 5 people are standing around him... equal parts giggle monster and actual monster...
...At the time we actually owned two houses (contrary to popular opinion, public servants living on one full time income are not wealthy enough to own a house in the country AND a house in the city)..."**
And while reading, the year quickly comes into perspective; I can laugh and remember how thankful and grateful we really are.  The reality shifts focus, there may have been a year with a stressful job change, miscarriage, a crazy baby, rushed move, sleepless nights, money troubles, illnesses, or mourning a death -- BUT at this one point of the year, we embrace the sparkly side, even if it is a little tricky to find.  In the words of Aunt Tish, "portals of light even in dark times."

In my mind, that is the point of these Christmas letters and happy family photos; some people are a little jaded and critical of them, "the yuletide brag rag" but not me.  The world is filled with all kinds of negative.  Obviously no one's family is perfect and always glowing (except ours).  Everywhere I look I'm reminded of the surrounding heartbreak, but if even for just a couple of weeks a year, it is nice to be reminded of the Blessings in life. To read about the successes and see the beautiful portraits and the silly snap shots.

I'd love a world where I am intimately privy to everything that is going on in the lives of those most dear to me but it isn't true.  FB has helped keep in touch with many people but the big picture is often lost in the day to day.  Sometimes I can see someone a couple times a year and still not know that they are at a new role in their company or that their water heater exploded all over the basement or that their kid plays the electric guitar or that they went sky diving.

Unsurprisingly, I say, bring on the holiday cards and pictures and letters and acrostics and poems! Even (especially) if some of them make me laugh and others I skim until I have more time because they are so long.  I love to hear about everyone and see the sweet pictures, so feel free to add me to your list, I'll even send you one back!
(if I even do a letter this year)

*We've done all sorts of things to send out Christmas cards cost effectively.  I liked the post card, the handmade ones were so much work but so cute, but last year's brochure was super funny.  Apart from the fact that it was like we were trying to promote our family, it was very practical and reasonably priced.  We joked about going to the local events and handing them out to prospective friends, ""please consider our family; our email is on the back should you have any questions."  My DS actually said last year, "Mom! Why can't we just take a regular picture for our Christmas card like all the rest of the families?!" 
Poor guy, it isn't easy having a crazy mom.

**Let me clarify that my DH does not use the pregnant pause...  I put those in because I'm just using excerpts from the original letters. Thankfully, my DH is the master of the positive spin.  Also thankfully, these last years, we've needed less spin.

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