No time of the year more clearly reminds me of my ineptitude as a correspondent than the Christmas season. For as long as I can remember, I’ve intended every year to send out holiday cards. Some years I’ve managed to send one or two before Christmas, but usually if I send anything we’re well into the New Year. “Hope your year is off to a good start,” I’ll write. One year I set up a special card-holder to display all the Christmas cards we might receive. Given my card-writing history, it shouldn’t have been any surprise that the holder was practically empty, except for a few greetings from forgiving friends and relatives, who kindly overlook my poor writing habits.
The problem with receiving cards is the guilt. I immediately compose a long reply in my head, meaning to get it down on paper the next chance I get. My intentions are really the very best. “Sorry I haven’t been in touch for a while,” is how I usually begin the few letters and notes I send. The longer the letter received, or the longer it’s been since I’ve corresponded with a particular writer, the more I feel compelled to compose a long, heart-felt letter. I somehow can’t bring myself to send a quick hello or to just sign my name below the greeting printed inside a card. And why not compose a holiday newsletter to send to everyone? I love receiving news that way, but the one year I tried it, I still felt the need to personalize each one by adding a note to the bottom (and the back) that was sometimes almost as long as the typed letter. I was soon overwhelmed, and by then it was February.
The funny thing is my husband doesn’t seem to feel the same guilt (or else he bears his guilt in stoic silence). We hear from his relatives, but I bear the burden of feeling the need to write back. I’m not sure why this is. And I’m pretty sure my dad never put a pen to a Christmas card while I was growing up. I could just follow their lead and refuse to give into societal pressures to suddenly get in touch with everyone I know during the busiest weeks of the year.
Instead, I’m trying something new this year for my holiday correspondence, the pre-printed family photo card. The photo and “Season’s Greetings” message take up most of the room, so I’ll be forced to minimize how much I write (but I guess I can always use the back and write small). I’ve only ordered 10, but I think I’ll have some more printed up that just say, “_______ greetings!” with space to fill in the appropriate time of year. If I don’t get to them until April or May, they’ll be an unexpected surprise.