I didn’t send Christmas cards this year. There. I’ve said it.
Normally, I send well over 300 cards to just about every corner of the globe. It costs us a small fortune in postage and is a huge effort. Every year I struggle to get Marc and the children to sign them and very rarely do I manage to get them all done in time to get them to their final destination before the big day.
I don’t mind the cost. Or the effort. I don’t even mind that I receive less than 50% of that number back. I am happy just knowing that I reached out and said hello.
But this year I wanted to do something more than just say hello. This year I wanted to reward and recognise the effort that those of you made when they sent us a card/letter.
Since I usually manage little more than a scribbled, illegible note and our signatures, I have vowed to send a handwritten, personal, old fashioned letter to everyone who sent a holiday greeting card to our family.
My Grandmother was a great letter writer. In fact, the entire family regarded her letters as an informal family newsletter. She kept everyone up to date on what was happening with everyone else. When my Grandmother died, I found great comfort in discovering the stacks of letters that had been written to her in response to letters she had written. But most comforting (and painful in equal measure) were the stack of letters that I found I had written to her over the years. Most of them span the timeframe from when I left university and moved abroad.
The changes I underwent as I faced the challenges ahead of me make for some hilarious and some excruciating reading. But then I brought those letters home and matched them up to the letters she wrote back to me. Every single week.
They are an invaluable collection of advice and guidance given and taken. They are filled with comfort and encouragement. They are full of the tidbits of our lives as they were and reflect our growth. They are the perfect picture of her and me. They are my most valuable possession.
In that spirit, I embark on sending a proper letter complete with illegible handwriting and mundane details of the weather. But also, I hope, a little bit of me and my family; a little bit of what happened and what lies ahead. You will receive one of these letters if we received a card from you. And if you failed to send a card, don’t worry. I promise to reply back with a handwritten letter to every hand written letter we receive.
Facebook, tweets, emails and ecards don’t count. Whilst I am a big fan of electronic communication tools, in fact I would be lost without them, I still believe in the pen and paper. There will come a time when I will leave this world, much later than today one hopes. When that time comes, it will prove next to impossible to recover the emails and ecards sent to me. I doubt that anyone will even bother. These digital records of our relationships will be lost along with our heartbeat.
But a soul lives on in the letters we write and send on paper. They are tangible. They are real. You can take them with you on the long journey of life. And I hope you do.
On my darkest days, and I have more than I would like to count, I reach into the box that contains my Grandmother’s letters, the cards from my mom and dad, my sister, my friends. It is the ones that tell me what they have been doing and what they want for me that lift me up and help me to take the steps I need to continue to move forward. Without these letters/cards I dread to think what would happen to me.