Friday, December 14, 2007
Have you ever read Lee Smith's The Christmas Letters? It is a really wonderful and unique Christmas book. It focuses on all those letters we get that tell us how well everyone is doing, how successful they are, and how great their families are. The book shows what is between the lines, the story beneath the words sent out at Christmas. From my book journal:
As a recipient of Christmas letters, I always wonder what isn't being said. Sometimes I even know what unhappy bits are left out.
Do you suppose recipients don't want to hear about the job loss or the divorce, the sad and upsetting things that all of us go through in any given year? I don't think so. I like to know how people are really doing, and for some reason this year, the cards we've received seem more honest, more heartfelt.
I don't write a general Christmas letter. I write a note on each card, sometimes filling the back of the picture, and other times just saying the standard lines. It depends on how frequently I see the people. The ones I do not see often, or even never, and am only in touch with at Christmas get the long notes. I try to compress into that space how my kids are doing and any changes in our lives in the year's time. And you know, this is tiring. The emotion that comes up as I write drains me. Even if there isn't anything particularly dramatic that I'm writing, still, I am having a conversation, albeit one-sided, about the important thing in life, my family. And as I write, I am thinking about the person I'm writing to. Sometimes it is an aging person who may not have many more Christmases; sometimes it is someone from my past whom I will most likely never see again; sometimes it is a childhood friend and all the lovely memories just course through my heart, bringing tears to my eyes.
So, writing Christmas cards is no small venture. It is big, it is important, it is emotional, it is necessary. The cards that dismay me are the ones with just a name. I want to cry out, wait a minute, tell me how your kids are, what are you doing, how are you. And when I write back, I ask these questions, a year flies by, and a card comes the next year with no answers. Isn't it strange? One more facet added to this emotional activity, a seasonal pastime I wouldn't miss for the world.