Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Why I'm Writing Holiday Cards Now

Our culture loves itself a holiday card! There seems to be a mad dash in the month of December to get. those. cards. out! I have always been caught up in that race, but not because I felt pressured to participate. I genuinely loved the act and the intention. Just maybe not the deadline.
I have always had a very old-fashioned sensibility that values practiced penmanship and all types of stationary as well as fonts, typewriters, and printmaking. If you know me well, you know that you are going to get a birthday card in the mail, every year of your life, even if you are turning a very boring age like 43. (Apologies if you are 43.) Although, I am actually not as consistent as I’d like to think I am. I will spend $8 on a single card because it is made by letterpress or another once obscure technique. I select an appropriate stamp that matches the theme or colors of the occasion or card itself. I get excited when the post office releases new stamps. I get excited when I take the cap off of a new fine point pen. And the feeling of sending my words, written on paper, out into the world to someone I care about? It is my sacred and humble offering.
When I was little, my mother had one closet for all of the miscellaneous in her household and in that closet there were plastic baskets and shoe boxes full of greeting cards, for every occasion, waiting to be signed and mailed or delivered with a gift. I have followed in her footsteps, collecting cards over the years from boutiques all over the country, or as gifts, bought online, and from when I worked at Hallmark and then a stationary boutique in Chicago. I have had friends tell me that I should design my own line of cards. I considered it after Dan’s diagnosis…It was so hard to realize that there is no “card” for moments in life such as those. There is no card for a miscarriage. There is no card for a suicidal death. There is no card for anything awkward and unusual and outside our standard comfort with etiquette.

To cope with Dan’s diagnosis, I cleaned and organized cupboards, drawers, and closets. I purged things. I bought things. I rearranged furniture and then rearranged it again. My mother once told me, as a child when I was rearranging furniture in my room for the 12th time that month, that she used to rearrange furniture when she was a child. She often rearranged the living room and every time her father would shake his head that she moved his favorite chair and move it back. She and I either had an obsession with interior design or we were pushing and pulling and changing because we didn’t know what else to do.
When I took a break from this, I grasped for anything else that I remembered enjoying with such fervor as a child: Drawing, quietly, focusing on a single photo, object, or image, and copying it. Playing piano–where it was just a blur of notes on a page and my fingers rushing over keys, but my mind could slowly ease into it. Writing. I wrote blog posts as if they were diary entries.
And now, this winter, after the shock and loss just a month ago, and this continued static of cancer’s unpredictable strategy in each day, I am relishing my belated holiday task. I have decided to hand write messages on our cards. All 125 of them. Who cares that the climax of Hanukkah and Christmas came and went? Who cares that the New Year was already honored and cheered? I really don’t. I don’t really care when these cards will arrive–now or even after Valentine’s Day. Maybe March?
I just need to sit quietly, think about the faces of the people I am taking the time to write to, and put my pen to the paper. It is a pinch of healing in my process of living. Every stroke of ink is releasing a little bit of grief, a little bit of fear, a little bit of my weariness. It is a meditation also of my love for and trust in who we keep dear. So here they are: my simple thoughts placed into envelopes, sealed and carried away.