The Christmas Letter, a Dying Art

The Christmas season is upon us and we are all frantically making preparations for the big day. There are gifts to buy and menus to plan, people to see. There is one tradition I hold on to. It is the Christmas Letter.

Now I know in the busyness of Christmas these have often gone by the wayside. They are time consuming and the postage is expensive but I so love to receive a letter so I think others do too. Years ago I used to hand write my letters. I didn’t have as many friends. As my children came along my time was taken up in other ways so it became harder. It was still part of Christmas preparation though.

By the time my third child came along it was downright onerous but I still could not give it up. It was too important. Thus was born the form letter. Now I know that makes some of you cringe but it was necessary. I refused to send a card without some information on the family. It was often the one time a year I touched base with old friends and extended family.  It became my job to make it an interesting letter worth reading. Beside it just made more sense to send one good letter than a few notes that repeated themselves over and over.

My letters evolved to include pictures that the kids drew, signatures and pictures taken through the year. I developed a bit of a template that I follow. Each child gets a featured paragraph of activities and accomplishments, family events and holidays are highlighted and other news is shared. I try to keep it around two pages. I don’t want to bore anyone. My friends liked the letters so well they started doing their own. Over the years we all still anxiously await the yearly update from everyone. And my kids loved seeing the mail come in.

To save costs I buy cards on Boxing Day sales. Pictures are now printed on the letters with the ease of the computer. I used to photocopy in the old days. And now that my children are grown and moved away they still get a paragraph about their yearly exploits. And there has been one very great spin off that I didn’t figure on when I started. I now have three decades of family history nicely paraphrased in the letters. I have kept every one and hope to publish a family history for the kids. I would never remember all we have done but I have a handy reference.

So for all my young friends it may be a tradition worth starting. I know it will take an evening of your time but down the years it will be so worth it. Your time is your most precious gift and in these tough economic times it is something we all have to share.  And I am sure there is an old Aunt somewhere that would love to hear from you this Christmas. Enjoy.img_2165


People, Weird, Wacky and Infinitely Interesting

My grown children always say I have the most interesting friends. They are the most unlikely collection of people you could imagine. I like to think I have carefully collected them from many places and times in my life and they have all helped to mold me into a well-rounded individual. And yes you all know who you are. You’re probably the only ones reading this.

I would like to say they all fall into some neat category like well read, creative, wild and adventurous or some other such category. Honestly they don’t. Each one brings a unique gift to my life. Some I have known for most of my life and some are new. I hope they can say the same.

Unique is the word that comes to me when I think of many of them. I have some that come from the years spent together in school. The odd thing is that some of them have become better friends lately than they really were back then. Perhaps we have grown to appreciate the journeys we have traveled and the wisdom we have gathered. I find them very comforting even though they live far away and I mostly talk to them on Facebook. We share a bond that has bridged the decades.

One of those particular friends is very dear to me. We have kept close and shared families, vacations and the ups and downs of life. As close as we are we are very different people but strangely seem to be in tune with each other. She is probably the closest thing to a sister I have. Another very dear friend of mine has literally raised her family alongside ours. Many a day was spent together harvesting gardens and preparing food. Our children call each other family. She has now moved away which is very sad for me but we do still see each other. Friends like these are very precious and I am grateful to have these two amazing women in my life.

Some of my friends are friends who share common interests. We work side by side on community projects. Many of these friendships started at soccer, football and basketball games. Friendships were forged over games or fundraising activities. We cheered on, drove and sometimes fed each other’s kids. In retirement they are the same people working together making our community better. We laugh together, cry together and often have rousing discussions on what is wrong in the greater world. People who do not take part in outside activities and volunteer really miss out on meeting this group of people. They may not be the friends you invite home to supper but they are sure fun to hang out with.

I also have friends that I believe came into my world to broaden my perspective and help me to learn new things. I find these friends especially exciting. They challenge me. They come in all age groups and I know I have friends that have no idea how these people have come to be my friends or why. I know why so that is all that matters. They help me feel vital and alive and I am happy they round out my life.

My very best friends are my family, immediate and extended. I didn’t want to forget them. They are an eclectic bunch. We tend to take them for granted but we shouldn’t. Many are not close to theirs so I am happy I am to mine. And there are a lot of them!

Lastly there are the acquaintances. That pretty much includes my whole special small town. They may not always like you or get along but they are always on your side in the face of tragedy or hard times. They wave or say hi when they see you. They chat in the grocery store and show up to the same meetings and events. They are a part of your soul if you grew up rural. There is a comfort in being surrounded by people you know. I will give you a heads up, if you are new to town, you will be noticed. Not because people are snoopy but because people are interested. How nice is that to be drawn into this circle of people.

I wonder how many people I know, a whole lot over the years. I am a people person so am very comfortable around people. How lonely I would be without them all. Take a minute to think about all the people whose paths you have crossed and be thankful for how they have enriched your life. Thanks guys!