When You Care Enough to Stress out over Mail: Holiday Cards

Holiday Card Stress by Carisa Miller

The first year I wrote Christmas cards, it was at a happy hour in a fancy downtown hotel, over gin and tonic. My new boyfriend had many years been in the habit of sending holiday greetings, and I thought I might like to give it a try. We ordered apps and cocktails and set up a card writing production at our table.

By the second round of drinks, we were crying tears of hysterical laughter over our ridiculous messages. These weren’t your typical, “Hope the season finds you merry and bright,” sort of sentiments. Sponsored by the spirits affecting our spirits, we wrote down whatever we were thinking. From, “Shoot! I just realized I forgot to pick up the dry cleaning,” to “Do you have any Grey Poupon?”  We wrote a commentary on the scene at our table, penned conversations back and forth and set our drinks on the cards, leaving water rings as stamps that proved our silliness and inebriation. We thought we were hilarious and had such tremendous fun, we vowed to hold a gin and tonic holiday card writing event every year thereafter.

Next December we had been married two months. My hand was still cramped from writing wedding thank-yous. We had goofy-faced photo Christmas cards made and brought home the requisite beverage components. We mixed our drinks and braced ourselves for a riot. It wasn’t the rager we’d had the year before. It was still a decent time, but it had the aftertaste of a chore.

Receiving a greeting card, anytime of year, gives me the warm fuzzies. The thrill of having them come by the mailbox-full during the holidays, can hardly be topped. We hang our cards over the entryway to the dining room. It’s a way to gather all the people we love in our home without having to make small talk or clean up after them. But given the effort we put into handwriting the cards we sent, I often found myself put-off by the greetings we received that seemed generic. “Just a picture? They only signed their names? Why even bother?” I would think, as I examined those cards that didn’t contain personal messages.

Four years, and two kids later, I’d like to travel back in time and smack my former childless self. Between being pregnant, new babies and the entropy tornado that is now my everyday life, I have traded the time and energy I previously used to hand write personal messages to plot strategies for visiting the bathroom unaccompanied.

Last year, for the first time, I guiltily sent off holiday cards without anything written on them. I cringed at an imaginary, "Harrrumph," made by those on the receiving end. I hated the thought of insulting anyone or giving them the impression my caring for them had diminished, but figured no message was better than no card.

This year, the children are "helping" me get the cards done. Our table is splayed with cards, envelopes, and postage stamps. A list of names and an address book are buried somewhere in the pile. There are sealed envelopes that contain neither card nor address, cards with scribbles over our family photo, and envelopes with postage stamps everywhere but the upper right hand corner.

Gone are the days of heartfelt and/or gin induced personalized holiday greetings. This year it’ll be a win if the post office doesn’t reject any of the Christmas cards that make it into the mail.

Each year, as I am looking over my list, asking around for updated mailing addresses, and stuffing envelopes, the people I send cards to are on my mind. I count years on my fingers to determine how long I’ve known them, and try to recall the last time we saw each other. I replay old times and spend a few moments with each person in my memory.

I now see, that there is magic even in cards that barely get sent. It doesn’t matter whether a greeting is homemade or handwritten or if you skip a year (or three). A fond thought sent out on brain waves in the general direction of loved ones, is as good as anything else. It's the act of loving that counts. Smart-ass personalized greetings are simply a bonus. 


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A version of this story was published on Mamapedia