I am sitting at the dining room table when I hear a scraping sound, the metal door of my mailbox lifting, and the plop of mail as it falls inside the hall closet.
For the rest of this week, I will look forward to this sound because it means more Christmas cards have arrived. The design of holiday cards have changed a lot; years ago, the images and themes were religious—a silhouette of two young parents watching over the baby in a manager, a bright star shining over a city, a single dove on the front, a wish for peace on the inside.
I still receive some of the traditional cards, but now there are other styles that come in December. There are photos of smiling families, children, and vacations. There are the update letters, the ones that announce new jobs, college admissions, and retirement. Some will hint at a loss during the year, but not without hope for a better year ahead and the remembrance of what they cherished about their loved one.
I talk to many of the people throughout the year that I send holiday cards, even if distance keeps us from visiting in person. I send very few cards to people that I only connect with once a year, but even for those situations, I enjoy both sending and receiving their holiday greetings. The cards serve as a keepsake, a way to stay connected, and if there is a picture, a way to see how they have changed or grown. The sender lets you know you are not forgotten and the recipient has a memento of a moment shared. A card is something I can tuck away when I want to experience that feeling again.
Maybe I send letters and cards more than some do; that is what I hear from my friends. I roam stationery shops and bookstores, and if I like a card, I buy it, knowing that even if it takes a few years, I’ll find the right person or occasion to send it off into the world.
In this season of gifts delivered by Amazon rather than in person, and holiday wishes sent via social media or text, it is nice to hear those cards landing in my mailbox. My delight comes from knowing that someone sat down at a table to write or set up space in a coffee shop, with names, addresses, and stamps in hand, and took the time to go through a Christmas card list that included my name.
Next year I will try something a little different. I am going to peruse my mailing list and see if there is a way to write more letters in 2018. I’ll look through my stash of cards, make one from odds and ends I have at home, or pull out my stationery, and then send a brief letter, just so people know that I am thinking about them during the year.
It’s 11:30 a.m. as I write, and in an hour or so, I will likely hear the clap of the mail slot as its hinged door closes, and the mailman will trudge across the front lawn to the house across the street. He carries more than letters and flyers in his bag; he transports paper promises that we are not forgotten and reminders of why we celebrate Christmas and this season.