We got our first batch of Christmas cards today, and they are decorated with fancy foil scenes of ornaments and trees, and are very pretty, but damn, I hate Christmas cards.
I know that this is a horrible and "Grinchy" thing to say but I've come to hate them. The reason I hate them is twofold.
The first is the fact that I hate to fill them out every year because I feel I must include some sentiment beyond what Hallmark has provided, as no Christmas card is complete without some minor well-wish, no matter how ham-handed, but I also begrudge the expense. Hallmark gets richer ever year, on every occasion or holiday, because people can't seem to say what they want in a letter or face-to-face. I would rather all the people who send me a Christmas card would send the money they spent to the local foodbank, or the charity of their choice, as this is the time of year when these people really need the help. A box of cards is $10, plus 32 cents postage a card works out to $13.2o. If ten people did this that is $132.00 to those in need. (Think of the folks who are homeless, or are the victims of Katrina, or wildfires, etc.) Also, I'm lazy. I don't keep track of who sent me a card the year before, as if this were some kind of merit/demerit list. You sent me a card last year so I am obliged to spend the money and send you one this year. Hell, my old dentist sends me a card for Christmas and my birthday but I don't feel obligated to send him one. He is just fishing for business.
The other reason is much more personal. My Dad's birthday was Dec. 25th. He used to laugh and say that the whole world celebrated his birthday. He died six years ago and I still get misty when I think of it. He was the most wonderful man I have ever had the privilage of knowing, and his passing has put a shadow over this holiday for some time. This year I promised Flannery to put this behind me and muster some holiday spirit, and as I can deny her nothing, I've tried. I have tried to enthuse the kids and I have kept my "bah humbug" to myself, but I have grown to loathe Christmas music and I don't help with the decorating anymore.
My most favorite memory from childhood was at Christmas with my Dad. We sat in the livingroom of our stone house by the tree at night, with a large fire built in the fireplace, and tuned in Christmas carols on a sixty year-old Philco radio. It took ten minutes for the tubes to warm up. It had one speaker and it was made of Bakelite, but by the amber glow of it's dial and the glint of the tree, we listened. I watched my Dad sit and use sign language with his right hand and follow along with "I'll be Home for Christmas". He had a look of contentment on his face as if he had just realized all his dreams. Almost all of his children were grown and off on their own. He had a beautiful wife of many years and a nice white Ford truck, and his beard was coming in nicely. Work was steady and he had thirteen acres of paradice, as well as a spot on Ceder Hill cemetary in the family plot by the cannon. His home and his tractor were paid off. He ate good, even though he was as lean as a fence post, and once a year, he bought a six pack of good German beer and drank one, just to remind himself of of his time spent overseas. (I drank the other five. If you leave five beers sit in the greenhouse for six months, they are fair game.) After that, we pulled the sofa up to the T.V. and watched "Lawerence of Arabia" with my brother Bill, and I held the popcorn bowl in my lap.
I will treasure this memory always.
For everyone else this is a time of celebration, yet to me, this is a time of mourning the greatist loss I've ever known. I put on a brave face and something of a grin, and extend my heart-felt well wishes to everyone I know, as I truly love them, and want to share a small spark of the spirit of the season with them. This truly is a grand holiday. For a few days out of the year we contemplate the love we share with others, and the grand culmination of what humanity hopes for: peace on earth.
My greatist wish is that you and yours enjoy a special holiday like the ones I have known, but please forgive me if I don't send a card. I sent yours to the foodbank.