Christmas is over…my daughter and family were home from Las Vegas. And the week of the surgeries was over! My daughter’s husband had ablation surgery (opening veins/arteries) on December 23; daughter-in-law Heidi had wrist surgery December 19—removing a bone, etc.; and the kids’ dad had gall bladder surgery on the 20th. But they were all able to celebrate Christmas to one degree or another.
While taking down Christmas decorations before packing (some more), I took the time to re-read the Christmas letters. I was late getting my cards out this year, and I find quite a few others were, too. I check off the people I mailed my cards to, and I see a shift. The “old standbys” aren’t as prolific as in years past. Now I get cards from a younger generation of relatives, too. They’re definitely appreciated. But I also feel a real twinge when I don’t hear from ones I’ve known forever.
To the best of my knowledge, most of those are still alive, but they apparently aren’t able to send greetings. That saddens me, as they were a part of my life for so many years.
For instance, a dear man named Jerry. I met him and his wife, Betty, when we first moved to Crookston. They had two older sons, and then twin boys who were my oldest son’s age. I can’t count how many coffee mornings I had with Betty and Noodles the dog, how many times we went to their lake cottage, and how many times Jeff and Jay played with my son.
Betty died a few years ago, but I kept receiving letters from Jerry. Not this year. I know he’s still alive, as I check Crookston’s obituaries faithfully. But in his last letter, he said he couldn’t see very well anymore. This saddened me.
My former secretary Dorie from Crookston always sent me a $25 check for my birthday and Christmas, and a little more, when I had my grandchildren with me. But in her last letter at my birthday, she said she was getting too weak to write letters. Again, such sadness I feel.
But, I did receive a letter from Hans, a distant cousin (his grandfather and my grandmother were siblings) who grew up in Germany/Poland, and lived through World War II there. An uncle and aunt of mine brought him and his brother, “Fritz,” here after the war. I love to get his letters. This year, he’s adapting to the loss of his wife, and “somewhat learning” how to cook and fend for himself. At 81, he’s telling me about his children, grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren. He and a grandson visited Germany, Norway and Poland. He wrote, “We visited the town of Wrzesnia (in Poland), where my family lived during WWII and where my father grew up. It was an exciting and emotional experience to actually walk into the house (the Polish people there were wonderful to us) where my family lived when I was 12 years old during the height of the war. It was January 1945, a severe winter. My mother, my siblings and I escaped the Russian tanks barely; my father had to stay behind and died from exposure a few days later, trying to get out.”
So, sometimes I get a history lesson included in my card.
The daughter of an old school chum told me, “Mom kept all your Christmas letters.” That means a lot to me.
I think if we could go through the Christmas cards we’ve received over the years, we’d have a “history” of times, events and memories that could never be compiled into a book.
Hans’ Christmas letter contained this note: “You have a life-changing event coming up. Best wishes with the move. Love, Hans.”
Over the miles, over the years, over the experiences…that’s what makes Christmas cards so special to me.
Those people who take the time to write, to send a card, define me. And those who no longer can do so are missed, and that’s also part of the promise of Christmas. One day, I hope to catch up with those Christmas card pals.
As I’m packing, I come across a lot of past-years cards. I think I’ll bring them with me.
A little history from Christmas cards