I have a good excuse for not sending cards this year, my mother said in her assisted living apartment. The arthritis in my wrist is so painful, its hard for me to write. Well, for Goodness sake, who would expect a 96-year old woman, in assisted living to continue the arduous task of sending out Christmas cards? And who does she think she has to give an excuse to, Miss Manners?
For as long as I can remember, my mother made it a part-time job to send out cards at Christmas time. She had a list that she alphabetized and kept a kind of spread sheet on, only we didnt have spread sheets back then. She kept a record of who had sent her cards and who had not in the last 5 years. If she had not heard from a person in 5 years, they were taken off the list, because she figured they were no longer interested in exchanging cards. In fact, the whole Christmas season was something my mother worked very hard at. She baked dozens of cookies, and Im not talking about oatmeal and chocolate chip[. I mean the roll-out kind that you decorate, the little wreaths, the ribbon cookies, and all the other delicate and time consuming ones. She decorated. She entertained. She sang in the choir. And she held a full time job and helped me with my homework every night. And the surprising thing is, I dont remember a single complaint.
Trying to follow my mothers lead, for many years, I diligently recruited someone to take me shopping for the perfect Christmas cards. I typed the addresses on each envelope, hoping that the ribbon hadnt run out of ink. I laboriously signed each one, and in some, enclosed a typewritten note. I did not, however, keep track of who sent me cards. That was a bit over the top for me.
Trying to get this done on top of working full time, wasting hours in a long commute, and keeping up with my other obligations in life, turned the holiday cards into a chore that I was not enjoying, to put it nicely. So I stopped. That made sense to me, and I felt I needed to make no apologies. Christmas card exchanges are going the way of making your own bows on your wrapping. Mass email greetings are a poor excuse for an individual message, and for me, its just as meaningless as being a name and address on a mass mailing list. I still remember the sting of receiving a card from my sister, signed with her familys names, and not a single personal word.
I still receive cards, although not as many in years past, and I like to display them, but I hope those people are not keeping track of how many years I have not returned a card. When I see people during the holiday season, and I know they arent Jewish, I wish them a Merry Christmas. And if I dont know their religious preference, I wish them a Merry Christmas anyway. To me, a smile and a hug or far more important than a folded paper I stand up on my piano. If you sent me a card, I thank you for the thought, and if you have not, Im not checking you off my list. Merry Christmas to all of you whom I dont know, and to those of you whom I do, Ill be in touch.