In my glorious (vain) attempt to stay on top of life all the way through the holidays, I began planning out not just our festivity and event calendar, jam-packed first with baking Thanksgiving pies and roasting the turkey, then with the Christmas tree lighting, Santa visit and pictures, the Nutcracker ballet, and holiday parties (school, work, friends, neighborhood…), but ALSO with the cleaning and decorating times, centerpiece making, gingerbread house designing, Santa letter writing, tree ornamenting, list making, gift shopping, present wrapping, cookie baking (and let’s not mention the birthday cake making and birthday party planning, professional birthday photos…), all right after Halloween.
I put in the solid dates first: the parties already planned, the baking that needs to be done just before an event, the events from around town, the in-laws’ arrival, then moved on to the more flexible things so we knew how early we needed to start doing all the crafty stuff I love to do and would hate to miss. And then I realized I was going to have to start writing my holiday letter IMMEDIATELY. And cards would need to be ordered, pictures scoured to find a single decent picture of all four of us, hopefully without Cassie scowling (she doesn’t like cameras) or Owen holding his junk – yeah, that junk (“’cause it’s fun, Mom”), or Ben squinting all funny like he does. Or me looking fat, or my hair looking bad, or with double chins, or wearing crappy clothes, or… anyway, it’s always a challenge. Worse, I was going to have to start contacting people who’d moved for their new addresses.
I think I actually groaned audibly.
See, I practically never take anyone off my Christmas list, so I’ve accumulated 150+ friends to send my yearly update and perfect pictures to. Being in academia, having tons of military connections, being around the age when friends are getting married, buying homes or upgrading homes, or finishing grad school or starting grad school, a ridiculous number of our friends move every year. Not to mention the “family friends” from both Ben’s side and my side that are on the list and are reaching retirement age, moving closer to their children, downsizing their homes, or moving to retirement communities. Every year, I have to contact dozens of people for their new addresses.
The thing is, it isn’t just a quick phone call, a short email, or a single text. It’s always a long conversation full of three years worth of as yet undiscussed life changes, and, multiplied a dozen times, it takes up a LOT of time in a month where there’s no time to spare.
So, I admit, I considered not doing it this year. It’s the age of social media! Who needs their Christmas tinder to have our cute “Happy Holidays!” picture on it? What can I possibly say in a year-end letter that everyone hasn’t already learned from Facebook? Why don’t I save the money (and it’s become a LOT of money), the environment AND time, and just not do it this year?
One friend’s completely unsolicited comment (thanks, Ginger!) at precisely the right time encouraged me to continue the antiquated tradition, by making me think (and hope) that friends do care. That they like to be on my list, that people still like to get snail mail and a solid picture occasionally, even if they do eventually use it to start their winter fires.
I began to collect the wayward friends’ addresses.
And I am so glad I did.
With Facebook, it’s so easy to think you’re in touch with so many people (and, true, I have more of a relationship with most of these people than I would otherwise), but we never talk, just them and me.
It’s amazing the difference a half hour on the phone, or a few emails exchanged back and forth, or a day’s worth oftexts can make. I feel so much more connected to everyone that I contacted, so much more like “friends” again. Truly, I didn’t even realize I had begun to feel isolated out here in the Midwest (from where many of our transient friends have already moved, leaving us to constantly search for and attempt to befriend affable strangers). It feels good to know I have 150 people who will be delighted to hear from me this year, even if only four or five of those cards are going to homes in Michigan. And even if another 20 of them come back labeled “time to forward expired.” That will just simply be 20 more friends I’m forced to reach out to next year, 20 friendships that will be rekindled, 20 friends I’ll remember why I became friends with way back in a different life.
It will be a reason to celebrate for the holidays, this year, next year, and hopefully every year to come!
This post was written by Penney Blakely. Contact Penney at email@example.com
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