Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Garland of Cards: Keeping in Touch at the Holidays

I have an archway in my home which I decorate with Christmas cards each December. We string a ribbon across the arch, pinned up in the middle, and hand the cards on the string as they arrive. So far there are 18 cards dangling above me as I walk by, and a small stack of photos and letters on the shelf to the right.

They are beautiful and cheering as a decoration but they mean so much more than that.

For some of these cards are the only time I am in contact with family members.

It's odd. Many of us probably have people we only contact once a year. I barely know some of this family anymore. My parents still go to visit these relatives in the summer but I've not seen them since I was a teenager. My memories of them are vague, but I know that they are family. Each year a card comes filled with a long letter detailing their year. I read it and feel connected. I send them a similar card and we are all fine with our annual tradition.

It seems strange, as I write it, to have family one knows only through an annual card exchange. My "real" family is much smaller--those I actually communicate with on a regular basis. There are my parents and one grandma, with an occasional communication with an aunt. Only my parents are local and we see each other at least once a month (or more) and speak several times a week by phone. We'll be spending Christmas eve and day together.

We're a small family, with an extended family out of state (the ones I get the cards from, mostly). I look forward to the annual card exchange. It makes me feel in touch with my family and friends. As the ribbon fills up, it is a colorful reminder of the people connected to me.

Connections are important, but I think over the next year I need to work on making it be more than just a Christmas card which connects me to my family.

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