Once a year, I do it. Once a year, I collect my thoughts about how my year has gone and I summarize it the best I can into a Christmas newsletter.
I know, I know! There are so many thoughts about “The Christmas Letter” that you get from others each year. Some are braggadocios: sharing every possible wonderful trip that was taken, how smart and successful their kids are, and how they just moved to a bigger, grander house. Others drone on and on about little things like how well their garden grew last summer. One year, I got a letter from my aunt. She listed every illness, broken bone, surgery, and sadness her family had experienced over the past year and then she ended it with “Merry Christmas”. I couldn’t help it. I laughed!
So, why do I do it? Why do I spend time writing this letter that may be taken as bragging, dull, or sadly funny? I write the letter because it’s my way of holding on to the people. It’s a fine little thread that keeps my past connected with my present. They are part of my life’s tapestry. I can’t maintain daily connections with everyone who has been part of my life but still, they are an important part that I don’t want to have disappear. When I send a letter, they send something back; a card, a note, a picture. And I smile, and think, “See, they’re still connected to me.”
And, it’s a once a year ritual that forces me to stop and give thanks for all the joy that filled my year. The newsletter is two-sided which might make you gasp in horror but it’s made up of individual little stories (short and to the point) and then a picture here and there to show how we have changed over the year. Do I share the sadness? Sure, sometimes, but I try to also share the positive that has come from that sadness because no one needs to add my burdens on to their’s.
In the end, I send out 40 letters. Yesterday, I got two cards back. One was from a man who, along with his wife, used to take care of my kids when they were babies. His wife and one son have now passed away but he sent a card with a picture of him smiling and a note; shaky handwriting shared news of his other daughter and son and their families. A thread, keeping us connected. The other card came from a former co-worker. She said “I was waiting for your letter. I’d heard that you moved.” Then she, too, hand wrote an update of her families year. A thread.
I had one card, in my Christmas folder, that I had saved from last year. She had written inside, “Call me. Let’s get together some time this year.” She had written that same note in past years. I had always kept the card, thinking “This year, I’ll call her.” It never came to be. I’d write a note on the bottom of my letter saying “Maybe this year.” Well, this year, I looked at last year’s card and I kept one letter aside to write that same apology on the bottom once again. But when I got to her letter, I had run out of stamps. I took this as a sign. It was time to call her! So I said, “I think I’m supposed to deliver my Christmas card to you in person this year.” We’re going to lunch next Wednesday. We were neighbors, long ago, when our kids were young. I haven’t seen them for maybe twenty years.
My Christmas letter has been my thread; a simple little thread that holds my tapestry together.