When we cleaned out my parents house I, like my siblings, brought home many things that I thought I had to keep. I filled my car on numerous trips and even brought a U-Haul truck home once with furniture. Now I wonder what I was thinking, but that is not the subject of this post.
One of the items I brought home was a long, slim box that was filled with lists. Lists that my mother had compiled over many years. Some were typed and some were handwritten in her small, precise handwriting. There were checks, scratch throughs and little notes on each. These lists were compiled long before Excel offered data management and long before social media kept us in touch with every detail of everyone’s life. Long before we had phones that kept names, addresses, and other contact information at our fingertips. So what were these lists? They were her Christmas card lists.
My parents were military people for many years. They left behind a network of many friends and family in their home towns before they began making new friends at each base and in each community where the military took them. As we moved around Christmas cards were the way my parents stayed in touch with friends all over the world and with family back home. Over the years the list grew; my parents sent cards to everyone they knew no matter how near or far. Christmas cards were a time consuming practice and I remember how frazzled my mother was while she did them. But did them she did! Often my father and I were called upon to help seal and stamp, but my mother was the master of the project.
As the cards arrived each December they would find out who had moved during the year, who had married or divorced, who had another baby or in later years who had another grandchild. My mother wrote a short note in each card about our year and, likewise, those who sent cards to us did the same. We stayed in touch through the exchange of Christmas cards.
When I opened the box and saw the familiar names on the lists I knew I had to take the box home with me. Perhaps it tied me to my childhood, but it really is a treasured reminder of the time before the electronic age of instant communication. The tradition of exchanging cards was just part of the holiday season. Not only did it express good wishes for happiness, but it offered a chance to share a few kind words with others.
Sending cards at Christmas is still popular although many people have left the practice behind. Last Saturday while shopping at the Hallmark store I was surprised at how many people were on the aisle with the boxes of cards – all were trying to find just the right box. I usually send out a few, mostly to family and a few special friends. I only take time to write a note to an older cousin of my mother. The rest – well, I either see them frequently or we are on social media together. They know all the details of my days and I know theirs, so no notes are necessary!