Friday, December 28, 2007

Receiving without Giving

One of my memories of the Christmas season when I was growing up in the Florida panhandle was my mother perpetually in a dither until the last of what seemed like hundreds of Christmas cards had been hand-written and posted.

Note these were not “happy holidays” or “seasons greetings” cards, but genuine Christmas cards. She was very particular about this, not looking favorably upon the rather gaudy card received each year from my father’s cousin Florence which never mentioned the C word or anything to do with God. She surmised that Florence and her husband Arnold were appealing to the many neighbors in their posh Minneapolis suburb who were Jews. I now surmise that my mother was rather anti-Semitic, mostly out of a total lack of knowledge.

The other thing she was fanatical about was that each card had to be hand-written with a personalized message. She had lovely hand-writing, having learned the Palmer method in her little Pennsylvania elementary school. My early years were before the advent of the Zerox machine, so there were no mass-produced letters. She was quick to condemn them when that became a possibility.

But the worst card of all was one that contained only a signature. “Why did they bother to send it?” she would say.

I inherited those card-writing genes and lived true to them for several years after leaving home. I occasionally even took a family picture to insert in each card. I never went as far as having a card printed as many do. But then as I distanced myself from Christmas and remembered my mother’s admonishment about “seasons greetings” cards, I stopped sending them altogether.

Each year as they would come in, I would pledge a hand-written letter in return after the New Year. I seldom made good on that pledge. Little by little they have quit coming. I almost feel guilty when I get one these days.

Here’s my inventory for this season (so far):

– 2 Hanukkah e-cards
– 1 Christmas e-card
– 2 e-mail mass-mailing letters
– Several Blog greetings
– 5 actual cards (picture above)

I sent/gave exactly 2 hand-made cards this year.

I am curious about the people who sent cards last year and didn’t this year. For several of them, my first thought is are they still alive? I shudder to think maybe not.

Have you seen a similar shift in your holiday greetings this year? Or is it that I am finally being punished for all those years of receiving without giving?


Blogger Jamy said...

I've always taken it as a perk of being Jewish that I didn't have to send cards. Never have, never will.

However, I think it's nice when people send me cards. I try to follow up with at least an email. If they don't send again, I don't usually notice. But it seems that once I'm on somebody's list, I stay there.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Jamy -- I guess I had sort of adopted the attitude you described, but this year I seem to have fallen off most everyone's list. Only 2 of my 5 cards are repeats!

1:06 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

I wrote my holiday letter weeks ago since there have been so many changes in my life this year. I even bought cards to put them in. They remain in my to do box. I have received some cards but many many more email message of cheer and good wishes. For those around the world whom I know I emailed with my holiday letter attached.

When Frank and I were together he wrote a newsy letter or we sent cards but because he is Jewish and I am not the card was always "Seasons Greetings."

Postage has become so prohibitive, it is difficult to justify sending too many by snail mail but this weekend I will tackle those, since many of the cards I have received were forwarded from Virginia.

It is all a mixed "bag" in my mind. I love receiving them but have found it a chore to send them.

1:54 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I send cards or letters every couple of years. My tendency to leave the country for much of November gets in the way of all that writing, addressing and stamping. Maybe next year.

2:53 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kate -- I think the trend may be away from real cards and stamps. At least you made the effort and sent something out already!

Kristin -- "Maybe next year" is what I have been saying for way too long now.

3:43 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

I agree with your mother, I send Christmas cards - regardless of religious beliefs of the other receiver. Hand written, with a personalized message in each. I also see no point in just a signature.

I also despise those form letters people send telling everything about their life over the past year (usually, I find them boastful and bragging. e.g. "This past summer we had an inground pool installed and it made a terrible mess. But the kids really enjoyed it with the hot weather this summer" blah, blah blah.)

I am a little less personal with electronic cards, but I still insist they reflect a Christmas theme.

5:06 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

I used to hate those letters too, Richard. But this year I retired and moved so many holiday card recipients are unaware of that. My letters, as Frank's in the past, always have a personal note at the end about the individual and his/her family. And others letters run the gamut from the braggadocio to the wonderfully funny and or newsy. I must say I enjoy most of them.

5:30 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Richard, Kate -- I like Kate's compromise. After all if you are going to say the same thing to multiple people, must it really be hand-written any longer? Adding the personal note does make it "customized".

I too hate the letters that go on and on about travels or accomplishments.

5:43 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

There is no question that I send pretty much the same sentiment and I have no problem with a quick update sheet, but it is the 5+ page brag letter that really irritates me.

I can accept Kate's compromise too.

8:59 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I only sent 35 cards this year and I sure didn't receive that many..maybe about 25. Many have stopped sending cards I guess.
I actually love looking at all the different cards, both the ones I receive and the ones for sale. They make me feel warm and fuzzy, and the old-fashioned ones (as well as wrapping paper!)remind me of my grandma!

I know I'll always buy them and send at least a few.

7:57 PM  

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