With Every Christmas Card

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I’m not just “dreaming of a white Christmas with every Christmas card I write.” I’m thinking of those family members and distant (geographically) friends, remembering good experiences, looking forward to anticipated meetings, and saying a prayer of thanksgiving for each one.

My address book is worn and pages are mottled with changes of address. But as I scroll from A to Z the faces of folks so dear, yet so absent, appear bright and clear in my mind. I can even hear their voices and see their characteristic body language and facial expres-sions. Some years life is so busy that I consider not sending Christmas cards. It is a huge job, especially if you enclose a letter and a picture. A few years I did just letters, but I love the pretty cards so I like to do both. One year I did actually skip sending cards or letters. But as each card from distant friends and relatives arrived, I felt a stab of guilt. How could I expect them to send us a card if I didn’t send them one? So the next year I gathered cards, Christmas stamps, return labels, typed a letter, visited the photo place to make copies of our best family picture–and sat down with a cup of coffee to enjoy once again the Christmas connection. Putting on a Christmas CD adds to the festivity.

It’s important to me to use stamps that depict the true meaning of Christmas. I always ask the clerk at the post office to show me all the Christmas stamps. I like to see the colorful Santa ones, or those showing a snowman wrapped in his bright scarf, but I always choose the Christ child stamps, happy that I have the choice, and happy to remind all who happen to see my letters, postal clerk or whoever, that “Jesus is the reason for the season.”

The price of stamps has gone up, in my lifetime, from three cents to fifty cents (as of 2019). But it’s still a bargain. Imagine what comfort, consolation, joy can pass through the mail service for only fifty cents!

I treasure each card and letter we receive. Every day there is at least one new one. We eagerly read each message, delight in the beautiful cards, try to tell who everyone is in pictures of people we haven’t seen in too long. It’s fun, each year, to see who sends the first card. This year it was my niece Emily’s card that arrived first. I  have, some years, covered the refrigerator in lovely cards, or displayed them on a bureau. This year we’re placing them in a Christmas card basket. Day by day, the top cards are different.

Christmas cards aren’t the only mail to land in our box. During the Christmas season other surprises can show up.

Today a package accompanied bills, Medicare statements, solicitations, and Christmas cards in our box. Not only was it fun to discover the thoughtful gift of four different kinds of English muffins sent to us by a dear niece in Potomac, but receiving the package reminded me of the spasms of glee we children at Pinedale went into when a package arrived in the mail.

Throughout the year we were eager for the mail to come every day. Older brothers and sisters wrote home often, one in the army stationed in Japan, another at Bible college in Alberta, Canada, sisters at college in Virginia and South Carolina, and our oldest brother, pastor of a church in Mississippi. Whenever a letter arrived our parents gathered us together for the reading of it.

But at Christmas…..

There were packages too!

Our parents shopped the Montgomery Ward and Sears Roebuck catalogs. I tried to eavesdrop and hear what they were ordering but their voices were so quiet. And somehow, no matter how quiet I was, they could always hear me! Some of us studied the catalogs later trying to discover any smudges or turn-downs on the pages. One brother was very sad when he discovered that the toy truck he’d drooled over was still in the catalog, therefore not coming to him.

Walking down our very long winding driveway to the mailbox was a favorite thing to do, especially in December. We hardly ever went alone because we were all eager to see the Christmas card envelopes and we knew that any day a package would arrive. Mamma received a yellow slip from our mailman, Mr. Morrison, informing her that there was a package and we should look for it the next day. In such a case, we would go down early, ready to “meet the mail.” Sitting on a cold stone wall or skipping up and down the drive to keep our feet warm, we’d wait for the sound of Mr. Morrison’s car leaving the next mailbox and droning toward ours. We’d choose one person actually to meet Mr. Morrison. Though I longed to do it, I was too shy, so someone else always got the job.

Walking back to the house, we examined that package on every side. If it indicated it was fragile or perishable we sniffed to detect the sweet smell of a bucket of hard candy or maybe the coconut bonbons Mamma only ordered at Christmas. We shook the box–gently, mind you–and speculated curiously on what might be inside.

When we arrived at the house Mamma took possession of the box and we knew nothing more about its contents until Christmas. Wrapped gifts might appear on top of the tall wardrobe or in the now-empty cradle but no amount of puzzling over them would get even a clue from Mamma. Daddy just said in a mix of humor and sternness that if we continued guessing, our gift just might disappear.

I’m glad that “Brown paper packages tied up with string” are still available, still intriguing!

I’m thankful for electronic mail which is just wonderful. It is fast. It is concise. It is friendly and easy. I dearly love to find messages on my phone or in my inbox. But still, there is something so special about a “real” letter–or card. “Hard copy,” it’s called. One can unfold a letter and read it over and over, cherishing each line. As I did the letter received from my niece Joan who told of her family’s plan to converge on Asheville NC where they will enjoy Christmas together, all of them including tiny new baby Eula.

Mail–letters, cards, and packages–wonderful anytime.

But especially at Christmas.

“May your days be merry and bright…” as you send out those Christmas cards. There’s still time if you hurry!

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