Christmas cards hold a magic I find impossible to resist. Like most holiday traditions, the process is sacred, and, thus, it must unfold the same way each year. In late November I will buy boxes of cards, stamps, and order prints of our children, sometimes of the four of us if I am feeling visually acceptable. Next I’ll stack it all on the kitchen counter, a jagged heap of paper that will irritate my husband for days or even weeks.
Soon there will be a conversation that will resemble this:
“I noticed you have a new stack growing on the kitchen counter.”
“I see that.”
“Aren’t they cute?”
“How long are they going to sit here?” he will gently inquire knowing I won’t have a definite answer.
“Oh, they’ll be gone before Christmas, Honey. I can promise you that.”
Then, on an ordinary December evening, I will get the inner nod. This will be the night. Perhaps Matt will have a volleyball practice, or Tim detained by a client dinner. Whatever the happenstance, I will be presented with an evening alone.
I’ll light a fire in the fireplace, a few candles to add to the glow, and pour a glass of pinot noir. I’ll pull out the old George Winston December CD and pop it in the stereo. As the piano fills the room I’ll move the jagged paper stack from the kitchen counter to the floor by the hearth and lean my back against a worn leather ottoman.
Then it will begin, a journey through time that only I can claim. I’ll open a ragged address book that today’s internet savvy people would scoff at. But I love to see friends’ names, scratched out as they have moved from place to place, putting their family thumbprints upon communities here and there. A well worn address book tells a story. It reveals that life is a trail of smiles and tears.
I’ll start at “A” and work my way through a vast list of entries. And each precious name holds a life story that will capture me for a long moment. As I write a note, I will fear that it feels trite, like I have written it a thousand times already…but it is a wish, pure and powerful to all of those whom I have loved.
God’s peace to you.
…to the girl I met at seven. The deck of cards we kept handy in back pockets along with the chalk for hopscotch in the street. I can still hear your laugh and count the freckles on your nose. God’s peace to you as you search for meaning in a city of lights and trolley cars upon great hills.
…to the teen that slammed her locker shut next to mine for four years in high school. Your infectious smile and energy live on in my memory. I loved the way your blonde pony tail was always perfect, smooth against your head and tied with a bow. I wonder if it is perfect now during the long hours you spend by the bedside of your beautiful mother. God’s peace to lift your heavy heart.
…to my college roommates. You have held my secrets close for a quarter century. What would I do without you? Who would I have become with your laughter? God’s peace to you as we wonder how those carefree girls became women with lives of challenge.
…to my parents. You have raised six children to love and cherish their families. Your example is the compass by which I direct my life. God’s peace to you as you continue to seize each day and squeeze joy from it.
…to my brothers so brave and wondrous. The life stories we could tell and often do. You are the husbands and fathers I knew you would be. God’s peace to you in your homes as you mold a generation.
…to my husband’s family. I arrived one day, a city girl to your country home. I have never felt such warmth. God’s peace to thank you for years of love and acceptance.
…to the neighbor that welcomed me to my first house, to the mom I met at the park when my daughter was five, to the women that taught me the meaning of community and support. God’s peace to your families as you lead them, strong and powerful.
…to each and every relative that brings depth to the puzzle that is my heritage. God’s peace as you continue to reveal our American story.
…to the boss that believed in me, the usher at church who can’t help but smile, the friends along the way. All those friends along the way.
Before I know it, I will have spent time with each of you, the lovely and inspiring human beings that have graced my life. I will have held you in my heart, remembered the angle of your smile, the color of your eyes, the unexpected joys and heart wrenching sorrows that have knocked upon our doors.
By the evening’s end I will be reminded that, regardless of whatever the future holds, I have already lived a life of meaning. I have loved and been loved. I have laughed more than my share, and cried the tears needed to water the gardens of friendship.
At evening’s end, my will husband arrive, rumpled from a day’s work, my son will enter loud and hungry, and the phone will ring with a daughter’s need to share a giggle. So I will lay down my pen, knowing I will have a few more cards to write before the Holiday is over.
And so I will wait, until I get that inner nod to complete them. It is never planned. But I will know when it is time to finish the Christmas cards, share a memory, and wish God’s peace to you…