15 December 2011

holy-day cards

I call them holiday cards here, though they may feature a Christmas tree or a Menorah or a Celtic (Pagan) cross or a snowy, secular Yosemite. I call them holiday cards because they arrive at the end of the year, & as we draw nearer to the marker between one year & the next, it's a convenient time to reflect on the good stuff & the bad stuff & to think about what we hope will come. It's something to do with the Solstice — the turning from a time of darkness to a time of bounty, of light, of hope. There's something holy about that.

[It could be argued that this turning from a time of darkness to a time of light happens every single day. What a holy day, Tuesday! But that is another post for another day.]

Earlier today, my friend Joe Anthony expressed his frustration & also his joy surrounding the holiday card tradition. He said he thinks the tradition is "stupid, shallow, & wasteful", yet still it makes him immensely happy. I agree: The tradition can be stupid, shallow, & wasteful ... if there's no thought put into it. But it can also be incredibly rewarding, both for the person who sends the card & the person who receives it.

I don't make holiday cards. I make cards (tiny books, more like) whenever the mood strikes me, unattached to holy days. Sometimes, it happens in July. Or April. Or September, or January, ... or December. I love giving them, & I love receiving them. The best card I ever got was bought from a store, probably years before it was sent. It was a Thank You card. It arrived on my birthday. I've moved at least six times since the receipt of that card, but I have it still. On the inside of this Thank You card were the following words:

"I didn't have a birthday card in my files for you, so I'm taking this opportunity to thank you for being a wonderful daughter. I'm proud of you. Love, Dad."

Read the first part of the first sentence, & you'll see an admission: Every other year, he has pulled a card with the word "Birthday" somewhere on it from a file, signed it, & mailed it off. There's a cheapness to that, a wastefulness, a shallowness. But keep reading, & (if you're me) you'll break down into a mess of tears, in public, as your father tells you the one thing you ever really wanted to hear from him. "I'm proud of you." Holy crap, Dad.

It doesn't matter to me if you spent days seeking out a card that better words your feelings than you ever could, or if you found the blankest of blank cards & wrote just the two things you needed to say, or if you hand-crafted a tiny novella & stitched the pages together with gold thread. Sincerity, gratitude, & love are never wasteful, never shallow, never cheap. I understand what you mean, Joe, about the potential for this tradition to be sad & sorry & small. And I understand, also, your joy at exploring the other end of this tradition's potential. I'm with ya. Get out the pens.

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