New Year Reflections: Love & Christmas Cards

cardsI’m back, after a pleasant holiday hiatus disguised somewhat by the magic of scheduled posts.  It’s time to write again, and it’s time to catch up reading on A LOT of blogs (yours probably among them, if you’re reading this) that I’ve ignored during the busy season.  (I feel really bad about that, and I miss you–I really do)  But hey, what a season.

The great joy of the season for me is love–love for friends, and family, and occasionally even strangers on the street.  We hosted one party, ultimately staying up until 4am with a some folks we’ve just recently come to know better and enjoy, and attended half a dozen others through the season.  Ate a lot.  Drank a lot.  Told a lot of tales, shared a lot of hugs–and there it is: I bet I’ve squeezed king hell out of a hundred different people in the past month and only a few of them froze awkwardly and board-like in my embrace. Do I now have a head cold with a sore throat?  Sure, I do, but  I’ve often said that we should care for people year-round like we do in December, but that’s an inaccurate observation: it seems to me that it’s not the love that is lacking, just the willingness to express it.  Thinking of that old song.

It’s not the glow you feel
When snow appears
It’s not the Christmas card
You’ve sent for years…

…So may I suggest, the secret of Christmas
It’s not the things you do
At Christmas time but the Christmas things you do
All year through the year.

I disagree a little about the Christmas Cards.  I suppose a lot of folks sit down and burn through them as a chore–my wife of 19 years has a cousin who every season sends us a card that grossly misspells my last name–no, that’s not even it, she’s made up an entirely different name, with just the same first consonant, and assigned it to me– and, what’s more, she thinks my first name is Christopher.  It’s Charles–(hence the “Chuck” in Junk Chuck).  Of course, each year we send her a card as well, with the correct names on it, which she clearly isn’t reading.  It’s become a bit of a joke–I look at the card, see the misspelling, mutter “Fuck you, Andre” and sit it with the others. At least she’s trying.  I’ve met the woman once–but there’s the thing: at Christmas we make the time to service our connections, however tenuous, however ineptly or half-assedly.

We don’t go all out.  We don’t have photograph sessions in matching outfits, and we don’t write letters detailing our somewhat banal lives over the previous 365 days–our cards are pretty much bargain-bought boxes purchased each January at deep discount and squirreled away over the intervening 11 months. We’re not out to impress you with our creativity–a noble enterprise when you pretty much lack artistic sensibilities–we just want to wish folks well.

I try to add Christmas cards to my address book every year–new friends and old friends whose physical addresses have disappeared from my address book over the years due to moves and the preponderance of electronic communication.  I still find this odd–I can reach out to people I love across the country, across the world even, with a few taps on a keyboard, but if I was in their neighborhood I couldn’t knock on their door.  I send cards in opposition to the waning nature of this tradition because they’re tangible expressions of affection. My wife and I wrote them this year while watching a football game on TV, and that was nice too.  Sort of like a date, but with a plate of cookies at my elbow while wearing slippers and a pair of bright red fleece pajama pants with black moose on them and a 16-year old cotton sweater that is so ratty, so stretched out of it’s original shape, that it barely qualifies as a sweater–more like a blanket with sleeves.  It’s not a barn burner, as dates go, but I’ve had worse.  We’re even talking about sending cards next year to the people we see regularly in our lives.  Why not?