Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Aversion to letter writing

Christmas letter writing:  I used to do it all the time.

Drafting a Christmas letter was such a fun thing to do, especially once we got a computer! 

Then it got a bit trickier: I had to figure out how to space the body of the letter so the words would fit within the Christmas letter paper's design.  I had to edit the letter down to be both brief and interesting while still recounting the events of each year.

Of course before that Christmas letter writing tradition started, I used to make cookies for the neighbors.
That took a lot of time.

Then I used to hand make ALL my friends an ornament each year and also did a handwritten greeting on a Christmas card. 

Eventually the ornament making (mostly done with two babies milling about my work space) gave way to just a card, then a computer generated Christmas letter on colored paper.

It is just wonderful now to look back on those letters detailing what our little family was up to: soccer, Scouts, Church, jobs, injuries. 

The part about the kids shrunk as they left the nest for college and careers.  I still wrote about what we did as empty nesters, where we traveled, how we and our family was doing.  The saved letters served to jog our memories about which year things happened in our lives.

Then came the year that Bernie and I traveled a lot during December.  I skipped doing a letter that year.

Then we moved to Salt Lake City.

I wasn't really set up to do a letter in our temporary apartment the first Christmas we were here, so I skipped doing it. Plus I was really, really tired that year.

Then last Christmas...I just didn't get around to it.

Suddenly three Christmases have passed and I haven't sent out a single letter, or card.
I didn't even send out a change of address to most of the folks on our Christmas card list.
Last year our Christmas card basket was quite a bit short of brimming.
I really didn't care...
Those who I stayed in touch with during the year (via email, blogs and phone calls) were already up to date with my life, and I was up to date with theirs. 

Aside from my college roommate and one family in San Diego, I really didn't miss keeping in touch in our traditional "once a year at Christmas" manner. In fact it was a bit of a relief. 

Now while I had routinely sent out Christmas letters, I had never sent a photo of us at Christmas in the past, mostly because while I enjoy getting pictures of others at Christmas, I am always undecided about what I should do with their pictures after the holiday season. 

Tossing a picture of a family in the trash seems so wrong.  I would tuck the pictures into our family photo albums; it sort of made sense at the time.
(Decades later I'm afraid I don't remember some of those folk's names now...or even know where they live now.)

Then a new wrinkle (HA!) appeared in the past few years: Christmas has brought us family photos of aging friends that no longer look the way we remembered them looking before.

We found it really awful to identify a son in the picture as our friend and the old guy as his parent...whoops, the old guy IS our friend, the adult looking son is his little boy all grown up!

Stranger still is a photo of an old couple surrounded by several young adults and a few toddlers. 
A slew of names at the bottom of such a card leaves us guessing about who is who.
The guessing game gets even more difficult when there is an odd number of adult children that exceeds the number of children that we had known about before. 
Which of the smiling people in the picture are blood relatives to our friends? Which are daughter-in-laws or son-in-laws?
Which adult child has reproduced? 
Is there a spouse attached to that adult child holding a baby or ??? 

And then there are the perturbing questions raised when our old friends send us pictures which include none of their adult children in the picture, but includes a bevy of  tykes.
We wonder if our friends are now having to raise their grand children due to troubling circumstances and by simply signing their names they are simply avoiding getting into the messy details.
 (ahem..unless there is a blue pick-up truck involved of course...wink!)

Sticky questions to ponder at Christmas time. 
Another question: Why don't people realize that they would look a lot younger if they sent cards with their beaming elderly parents in the picture instead of their angelic grandchildren?  Honoring elderly seems like a most Christian concept, whereas pictured grandkids begs the question as to why my miraculously still dark haired middle age friends are not appropriately "crowned" with white hair per scripture.


This year I took a picture of Bernie and myself together outside just for fun. It struck me as the PERFECT Christmas card picture!  I raced off to get a stack of Christmas card pictures printed up with matching envelopes pre-printed with our "new" address. 

This year I have also determined to be more "personal" in my celebratory doings.  I decided to hand write letters to my roommate, the friendly family in San Diego, and to my three aunts. 

Five letters should be no big thing, and I would enjoy including congratulations about what their family has accomplished over the past years (grand in college...the usual.)

I took pen to hand and wrote a fairly detailed catch-up letter.
I explained why we decided to move to Utah, told about Laura being in grad school and buying a condo, about Jeff getting married and buying a house, about my job and Bernie's job, remodeling our house, enjoying fishing, skiing, hiking.  Added that our parents are well and that we had lost Bernie's brother to cancer last year at this time.

Included an invitation to come visit us anytime.
Also included my phone number, email address and blog site URL.

It took nearly three handwritten pages to include that information.  I'm glad to fill these people in. 
Now to address and stamp the letters and send them off.

Oh happy will I be when I am done with this task!

It should be a task taken on with joy, but somehow it is not. 

There is a touch of guilt about all the other "once a year" contact people that will not be receiving a letter from me. 
People that were important to me in college, or when we were newlywed, or raising our children together.
People that I once spent days with at work, or worshipped with or...

Flipping through my address book I see names and addresses of people that mostly have faded from my newest life phase.  I would be more than happy to hear from them again, via email (but NOT just a forwarded joke).

I find myself quite irked that most of them have never bothered to look at my blog, and yet used to ask what is new in my life.  

(So I should be burdened with the task of telling them all about what I have already written about in detail on the blog?  Is it rude to just say "our trip was great!  read all about it on this link...."?)

Perhaps really it is just all about is letting me know about their life via their letter, or NOT letting me know about their life, via simply sending a pre-signed picture or card that wishes us a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Perhaps keeping a friendship is not really the point at all.

I asked my BGF Gail about my mixed feelings about sending letters out at Christmas. 
I felt that I should, yet felt put upon to do so.

Bless her...she sends cards and letters to her friends through out the year simply because she enjoys doing so and has stamps, cards and addresses at the ready in her home.

To my question she counseled basically that I should not "should" on myself.
If I want to do it, and it makes me happy, then go for it!
If I didn't want to do it...then skip it!

Sometimes even at age 56 I want someone to give me permission to do what I really want to do.
She was happy to do so.

Maybe someday I will regret not keeping up with people more over the years. Perhaps their lives will intersect with ours again in the future and I will be sorry that I had not tried to stay in touch. Sorry that I didn't follow their job changes, loss and gain of family members or cared more about their fame, fortune or lack of either.

Or maybe not.  Maybe the next time our paths will cross will be in heaven and all the stuff that went on on earth will seem rather unimportant anyway.

(And to be perfectly candid...I'd much rather be playing with our kittens, or hiking in the snow or baking cookies or just about anything other than addressing envelopes. 
My other secret confession: I get a bigger kick out of seeing people's cat pictures than their grand kids. 
We've never sent cat pictures out, but give it time...just give it time.)


running wildly said...

I think as technology advances people should keep in touch utilizing those resources. So if an email with your blog address is written, then so be it. I've done just that and to my dismay, people (to be more specific, family) won't even read my blog. But that's what this day & age is now. It's blogs and email and texts. Writing a Christmas letter is out of the question for me, simply because I hate doing christmas cards. It's like a cult! SO I do them begrudgingly and premake the cards to include a signature on the bottom. The only writing I do is on the envelope. Best way to go.

It's the era now....don't feel bad if people won't connect with you on your technological advancements.

Vicki said...

Mark me as another who hates letter-writing (my penmanship has really gone downhill) and I find myself procrastinating over getting the Christmas cards done. I have no idea why, except that shooting off an email (or a FB message) is so much quicker. It's sad...letter-writing really is an art-form that should be resurrected. Good for you, Jill!

I love getting Christmas cards with photos, but I dislike sending them, because I don't like photos of myself. I'd much rather send a cute Christmas photo featuring Spooky! :)

Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

I did my cards as usual...and included letters to those who have no idea that they could read all about everything on my blog. I like the annual pic's...they spend the next year on my bulletin board.

But you have a may be more fun playing than doing Christmas mail!

PS That card with the nice blue truck won't end up in the trash, no?

Lovella ♥ said...

OH Jill . make me smile.
For the record .. .to her faithful readers.
My husband and I are relatively old. . and have our grands in our christmas picture but not our adult children.
Yup ..but we have a blue truck. . so we're not in the trash.. .though it does make me feel like arriving at her door in a surprise inspection of her bulletin board. Just kidding.

I have always had a hard time tossing family Christmas cards too. .and yet this year when I was clearing the board for this years new arrivals .. several who will likely never step in my door. . did just land up in the trash after their proper one year on the board.
I've never written letters. . .and now my life is on my blog so I feel even less guilt than I did before :)

Kathie said...

Many many moons ago I wrote letters- and even drew pictures - then photocopied and sent them out. I think I stopped after the 4th baby. Very rarely did cards although my mom did tons! I don't feel one bit guilty.

Now I blog and email and occasionally facebook. And keep in contact with more people than I ever did before.

I'll be wishing them all Merry Christmas via those methods and they'll do the same back. We're all happy!