A Christmas Card

Heavenly choirs, harp strings and angel voices have lately filled my little room – setting the scene for the season’s tasks.

Snow falling out the window works also, but snow came early this year with too much “eve of a holiday” discombobulation. It draped the rosemary, decorated railings, slid off the Buffalo’s new roof – and iced the roads for arriving visitors – then abruptly melted. Maybe we’ll have another storm, a non-threatening snowfall, just in time to change the light and lift the spirits for card writing or making.

Snow stirs up excitement and memories (maybe that’s why WordPress  lets it snow on blogs this month), but Christmas cards do, too. Requiring stamps and envelopes and effort, Christmas cards are an artifact of Christmas past, a visual delight – a tiny gift exchange. I love to get cards from the people we have known forever, with tales of children grown, a new generation born.

I’m a sucker for cards when they include any glimmer of the personal – a handmade card, a handwritten note, or the sometimes-mocked Christmas Letter (not mocked by me – I enjoy this Christmas ritual).

When we moved I recycled 30 years of cards, but saved some. Looking through the box, I noticed repeating and telling themes: my mother always chose scenes of fireplaces with cozy chairs, my painter friend’s mother sent countless depictions of sleighs through a snowy landscape.

Sooner or later, but inevitably, a store-bought card arrives in the mail, usually small, often involving gold, maybe a Madonna or some simple Father Christmas, and I’ll think, “Why don’t I buy cards?”

But tenderness accretes to homemade cards from many years, and soon I will hang all our Christmas cards up a wall by the stairs. They begin in the 70s, and the photos and drawings reveal a slow motion growing up of our sons.

In the old days I’d screen-print them, sometimes the kids drew the picture, and often the cards depicted our cats or the dog. Events some years required an accompanying newsletter. One year, in exasperation with me for complaining about how much I had to do, my husband drew (in a few seconds) what seemed to me the best card ever.

Next to reading to little children by the Christmas tree, best is to settle with a pile of cards and a cup of tea. The cards are little records of the luck and miracle of surviving – and the richness of accumulating life stories.

4 thoughts on “A Christmas Card

  1. It was wonderful reading this! I so look forward to finding your card in the mailbox each Christmas. I am also working on my cards as we speak. My goal is to get them in the mail in December this year….. Every once in a while I see store-bought ones that are just perfect and I’m tempted to buy them, but I really do love the process of coming up with an idea and then trying to make it work! The only big hurdle left is to get a family photo with the three of us. This weekend is it!

  2. Ah, I remember that card. I still HAVE that card along with all these many years of cards from you. It’s an extra effort to create that handmade card every year, but so worth it, for the sender and for the “getter”. My mom got me started on the “handmade” part by having me color in the little wreath on the bottom of the family photo card every year. I always thought that our cards were so much more interesting than the ones we got in the mail, because ours had that little bit of color on them.

  3. I like handmade cards best but I love all Christmas cards. When my sisters and I were young, we would take our parents’ huge stack of cards into a bedroom, turn out the lights and then hold each of them up to a desk lamp, oohing and aahing appreciatively at the backlit display. (The more gaudy the better in front of a 60-watt bulb, but I think the Gilmores’ green tree pictured here would have glowed nicely.) Cheap entertainment during those seemingly endless nights before Christmas.

  4. Katy, you are a never-ending joy for me. I am thanking my daughter Emily (you know her from Red Dog Farm) for putting me onto you. How did you make the snow here?? Merry Christmas.

    Peter Truitt
    Falls Church, Virginia (where it’s snowing!)

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