I flew back to Seattle last night: it was an 11 hour flight, the perfect time to write the Christmas cards. Quiet and undisturbed, alone in the rumbling darkness over the north Atlantic, I could reflect on people that are important and events of the past year.
I always sign each card, put in a short personal message, but my handwriting is too poor to try to write anything long or important. I still need to supplement with a printed "update" to say that everyone is doing okay, where everyone is, how the kids have grown. 'Never detail about vacations, promotions, illnesses, or deaths, although those seem to be prevalent themes among the cards I get. I always put in the current contact information: I always feel badly when people move without notice, because after a year, they are lost.
So, this year's short overview, tucked in with the card, was:
Warm greetings from the Low Countries!
The mysterious language on the card is Dutch: I’ve lived the past year in Arnhem, in the eastern part of the Netherlands, working with the implanted diagnostics division of Medtronic. I’m slowly learning the language and am enjoying the culture and the opportunity to travel in Europe. I will be living here for another year; Flickr pix are updated often.
The rest of the family stayed in Seattle (I'm really booking the air miles this year). Laura is finishing high school and graduates this year, so she's making college decisions. William is working locally, and Karen is teaching in the local schools.
We all send our very best wishes for a warm holiday season !
I think I sent out about 50 cards, a typical year. Some relatives did pass away; my parent's generation is sadly thinning year to year. Too many friends my age (their 50's) are going through a divorce, loss of a child, or end of a career, really painful to hear about and I'll send a follow-on note back.
Overall, though, it feels like my list is slowly falling out of sync and out of date. The Christmas card is the way that I keep in contact with people who were once daily parts of my life, and who do make me smile when I think of them and wonder how they are doing. I've made a note that this is the year to cull and update the address list.
I wonder, too, if we are the last generation who will support this ritual. The next generation has their own ways of keeping in touch, and they exchange pictures and news more frequently and casually than my generation does. I can't imagine that they will address and mail traditional cards; even thank-you notes are rare any more.
Still, for me, it means a lot to spend a moment with each person and each memory. Identity is continuity and affiliation, and in a footloose world, the Christmas Card still matters.