November 28, 2006
My mother had a friend whose Christmas card was always the first to arrive. She used green ink in a strong hand, and she must have mailed them on her way to work on Wednesday, because it always arrived on the day after Thanksgiving. “Well,” my mother would say, “I guess I’d better get started on ours.”
That was in the 1950s, when more people sentÂ more Christmas cards, andÂ in the days just before Christmas EveÂ we sometimes had two mail deliveries a day. I think it was sometime in the high inflation years of the 1970s that the practice started to fall off. I can’t remember the last time I sent conventional Christmas cards, the kind that come in a box, 25 all alike, with two extra envelopes. For the last fifteen years or so I’ve sent a letter (the dreaded year-end recap holiday letter) on the Feast of Stephen (December 26), with a handwritten note of thanks to anyone who brought a hostess gift to my party.
The first Christmas card arrived at our house today. It was from a woman I went to grade school and high school with. I didn’t really know her well then, and I hadn’t seen her since graduation in 1965.Â Five or six years ago she greeted me by name (by my childhood name) in the supermarket, and I have seen her there from time to time since then. I always invite her to the party (being remembered by someone always earns a special place in my regard), but she’s never come. And I’m not sure I ever had a Christmas card from her.
She’d added a personal note. “Thanks for always sending me your holiday letter,” it said.
I remembered then that back in September, at our parish school reunion, several people had said something to me about enjoying my holiday letter. And someone I saw at a Bishop McDevittÂ fund raising eventÂ Saturday night said the same thing. And now Patricia’s note.
Then it hit me. In last year’s holiday letter, I expressed concern that I’d been hearing more complaints than usual about the genre, some from people who receive mine!
It’s been an emotional six weeks leading up to this season. I am more keenly aware than ever of the treasure I have in my friends. And to think that some of them care enough about me to make it a point to encourage my writing!
At last year’s party someone gave me a tin of postcards with botanical drawings of holiday plants. I put itÂ in the basket with all my Christmas planning materials, and when I picked it up this year I thought about how I am something like my mother when it comes to things like this. I sometimes fail to use nice things because I wait for just the right occasion and never seem to decide that the occasion is at hand.
I pulled one out, addressed it to Patricia, thanked her for her kind words, and urged her to come to the party this year.
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