It was always Aunty Janet who was first. Sometimes the card would arrive at the end of November; spaced out letters carefully indicating our address. That award has now been passed on to Aunty Margaret – 1st of December her card popped through the door, beginning what is one of my favourite traditions: the sending of the Christmas cards.
Card writing is more fraught for us left-handers – pens must be chosen carefully or else our thoughtful missives become streaked with the mark of those born ‘cack-handed’ – but I truly enjoy those couple of hours that I spend thinking of each person as I write out their card. Remembering their children’s names; the laughs we have had; how our lives have changed since the last time that we saw each other.
There are those that think Christmas cards are a waste of time, those who think they are a waste of money and those who (like my uncle) are extremely vexed if the card contains no more than a “Merry Christmas”. As he so succinctly puts it “why bother to send a card all the way to Australia if you’re not prepared to bloody well write something proper in it?”.
My father-in-law pens a couple of sentences to each of the grandchildren in their Christmas and birthday cards which convey an entire story related to the picture on the front of the card. His handwriting is expressive and lyrical and what he writes makes me so happy for the children that I am doubly glad I am married to his son – those cards go in the box marked ‘keep forever’.
We all want to make our mark in the world and one of the easiest ways to do it is by putting pen to paper. To show someone we’ve thought of them, to take the time out to do so. Using a groovy font on an email is no substitute for the individual loop of your letters, no replacement for the joy that is your glad tidings written on something that is real.
One of the cards that arrived for me today made me squeal with excitement as I could tell it was from Laura from the envelope. There is absolutely no mistaking her handwriting and it reminded me of all those teenage years that we spent scrawling Prince lyrics on her bedroom walls and trying to pose ‘artfully’ with unlit cigarettes hanging out of our mouths (whilst we were rebellious – we weren’t stupid enough to smoke when her dad was home….). I think of the teenagers that we were and the women we have become and am so glad that we are still in touch.
These flecks of ink on envelopes have the power to move me before I’ve even looked at the contents and I know I’m not the only one. We end as we begin with Aunty Janet; it is her funeral and amongst the flowers is a piece of writing that I will never forget: a square of paper decorated with flowers that read “Your cards were always first.”
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