Friday, December 21, 2012

Get Carded

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, December 12, 2012, by Sara Mattinson

    The Christmas cards are starting to trickle in. Normally, I attach them to thick ribbons wrapped lengthwise around the door to the basement but this year, we have a four month old kitten in the house.
Pause a moment to picture the fun he could have with that arrangement. 
So this year, the cards are going up on the mantle and I fear we will have room left over. 
Every year I get more committed to the ritual of sending Christmas cards but fewer arrive. Rather than seeing that as a lack of popularity, I think it’s a reflection of a general dropping away of this yearly practice. While busy lives and tighter budgets make it an easy chore to avoid, I think it’s a shame. 
But not for the reason you may think.
I send out Christmas cards because most of my friends and family live away so sending out Christmas cards is my way of saying, “I am still alive. Hope you are, too. Thinking of you often but only get around to writing once a year. Merry Christmas from the East Coast.”  
It’s better than nothing (and that last part is a bit of bragging).  
In this age of Facebook and Twitter, consider the old-fashioned charm of receiving a Christmas card. Familiar handwriting, a faraway postmark, the heartwarming idea of being remembered fondly enough to be on someone’s mailing list. Now that Christmas is about instant gratification, the latest gadgets, and holiday shopping gone viral,  it’s nice to have something that reminds us of “those good old days” when everything moved a lot slower.
And the mail moved a lot quicker. 
I also send out Christmas cards so that I get to receive them. And the reason I want to receive them is so that I can keep them. Every Christmas card I’ve received since moving here in 2007 are stored in a large boot box because of a crafty plan: Recycle images from the front of cards into gift tags. This inner crafty person finally got released this year when lugged out the box full of Christmas cards rubber-banded together according to year. 
Turns out, that filing system was flawed but because of that flaw, I can reveal the surprising reason why the expense and effort of writing and sending  Christmas cards is worth it. 
And it involves that special Christmas magic.
While sorting through 2010 cards looking for images to cut out, I came across an envelope addressed to my dog at my address in Ontario. Familiar handwriting that I hadn’t seen it for awhile. I smiled again at the dog joke on the front of the card then opened it to see the signature: “Clancy and his mum”. 
Coming across that card was an unexpected gift.
Both Clancy and his mum are gone now, my dear friend having died in 2008 and her dog in 2011. Christmas is not a holiday I associate with Diana the because our friendship was born and nurtured during my summers on Pugwash Point long before I moved down here permanently but because of the tradition of sending out Christmas cards, because of my habit of keeping them, on an evening in December 2012, I was able to reconnect with a long-lost friend and companion. 
Isn’t that the point of the season? To find the joy in simple gifts. To make a special effort to send out messages to remind those friends and relations who live away that we miss them. To remember that the smallest gestures reap the biggest rewards. 
If keeping the memory of a friend alive isn’t reason enough to keep the tradition of mailing Christmas cards alive, then our collective heart has become three-sizes too small. 

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