I’m struggling with the Christmas cards this year. (Please note this post doubles as an apology for any late Christmas cards you may receive).
I normally enjoy writing them, and I sit down, put on some music, and go through the stacks of cards from last year to make sure I haven’t missed anyone from my list. That’s a “life hack” thing that I read once, and it turned out to have a hidden benefit.
The actual reason to keep all of last year’s Christmas cards, tucked in a box for the next year, was to keep track of who sent us a card. Not that Christmas cards are some sort of an earned or owed thing—we have a list of names and addresses we send to, and if someone doesn’t send us a card, it’s not like we strike out their name with red pen or something—it’s more a gentle reminder of people from the previous year, and a chance to double-check we haven’t forgotten someone by some accident.
But the first year I realized there was another reason to do this was the year I pulled out my husband’s card from his grandmother the year before. She’d passed that year, and this card was the last from her we’d receive.
So it went back up on the string.
It might be a facet of my queer life, but I had losses of loved ones early on. It’s something that sneaks into my writing more than a little (heck, even in Handmade Holidays, the illness and passing of a parent is a major plot point for one of the main characters), and there’s a reason so much of the magic or psychic abilities I often give my characters provides them with second chances to speak to loved ones, or to make something right that went wrong.
There are multiple last cards on that string now from people we’ve loved and lost, and although it’s bittersweet to hang them every year, it does feel very much like receiving a message from them again, and there is happiness in the memory. Carrying that memory throughout the year is a little easier with a yearly reminder.
In fact, the first time I met my husband’s grandmother, it was her 90th birthday. Thanks to jet lag, I was up very early, and I wandered into the front parlour of the home she shared with her daughter and her daughter’s partner, and I hadn’t noticed she was there (she was so quiet). After I jump-scared myself when I saw her, we had a little chat—I was so nervous, because I was meeting my boyfriend’s grandmother, for crying out loud—and at one point, she pointed to her display of birthday cards and said, “There were more last year.” She got a little frown, like this was somehow an insult, but then her face cleared. “Oh. No. That’s okay. They died.”
I think of that every year when I hang her final Christmas card to us, which she sent with love to both of us. She was a lovely lady.
Also? She had the most amazing penmanship. Seriously. I’ll try to keep that in mind while I chicken-scratch my way through the cards this year.