My mom always sent out Christmas cards when I was little;
for most years they featured her five girls.It always took all of her spare time over the course of a week to get
them all addressed.Meanwhile, I
watched out the window of our farmhouse for the little truck David the mailman
drove to make its way down our road.
Right after he left, I’d brave the snow and make my
way out to the silver box on the wooden post stuck crookedly in the milk can.I loved finding and opening those
cards.Even though our yard was covered
with the real stuff, my favorites were those with scenes of glittery snow.We strung a piece of red yard across
one wall of our house and hung the cards there, adding to the growing art
gallery each day.
I have carried on my mom’s tradition of sending cards each
Christmas.For years, they
featured my children and charted their growth for relatives and friends.I enjoy the process of sending the
cards, writing notes, sealing the envelopes, feeling the stack in my hand as I
walk to the mailbox to deposit them.
While others have gone electronic, storing their addresses
in the computer or on their phones, I still use an old fashioned Rolodex, the
kind with the flippy cards that recline against each other like sleepy friends
on a long road trip.
I use my
fingertips to gently awaken them one by one, the motion of my finger seeming to
beckon each one to come toward me and bring whatever memory it carries.Sometimes, they say little, others are
more talkative, and some speak of a life I used to know, one that does not belong to
The division of financial assets is a part of divorce. It takes hours and reams of paperwork.In the end though, it is done--down to the last cent.The division of friends seems like
it would be more nebulous, especially after thirty years.However, when it happens, it happens in
a chillingly predictable way.In
my case at least, the friends he came into the marriage with, went with
him.I thought I would always stay
in touch with my in-laws, but, of course, they went with him too.
As I flip through my Rolodex, I am amazed at the number of
people in there I thought would be in my life forever, but now they are
not.For a minute, I think of them
sitting at their desks, addressing Christmas cards.Do they linger for just a second when they think about me?Do they smile? Frown? Have they scratched my
name out?Put me in an inactive
file?Deleted me completely?Perhaps so.Then why do I find it so hard to do the same?
A better question would be why I keep the cards of the dead:
two friends and my mother-in-law.I place my fingers around the cards, prepared to pluck them out, but I
can’t do it just yet.Their
addresses belong to others now; their phone numbers have been dissolved, sent
back into the busy sky of numbers that floats above us and yet….
Perhaps it is that little tap of memory each card gives me
that I still need.Perhaps it is
the interspersing of all these people, those who are in my life and those who
have moved on, that somehow gives me a fuller sense of the scope of my
life.For in with those names that
cause me sorrow, are those names and addresses that give me a sense of warmth and also those that give my life a vibrant,
forward motion.I trace my
children’s lives from home, to dorm, to apartments.I add new names to the growing young families of my
nieces and nephews.I add more
cards as my life and relationships expand in ways I never thought it would.
It seems fitting that this holiday, this season of faith,
devotion, and miracles, garishness, glitter, gluttony, and, yes, sorrow comes
to us just before the start of a new year.
In the rush and chaos of the season, I am grateful for the
simple act of sitting down with a pen, clean squares of envelopes, and a clean
square of time in front of me.
My friend Jim went on a wildlife tour and came home to
report that the male elks he saw were “real jerks.”Apparently, they can be selfish, sex-minded, self-centered,
smelly creatures.I joked with Jim
that according to some of my female friends, there are some human males in the
dating pool who can be the same way.
After talking to Jim, I immediately called Brian, that
Certain Very Nice Man.“Thanks for
not being a male elk,” I said.“You’re welcome,” he said without missing a beat.
This is what I love about him.I say wacky stuff all the time and it
does not faze him one little bit.
Months passed and I was obviously not thinking about this
conversation when I was picking out new stockings for Christmas.It was only when I got home and pulled
out the stocking for Brian that I realized it had a big felt elk on it.Ohhhhh…. For a few minutes I thought I
could maybe live with the stocking, but then I knew I couldn’t.I drove back to the store.
“Is there anything wrong with the item?” the clerk asked.
Normal person’s response:“No.”
Betty Response:“It’s just that it’s got a male elk on it and apparently they are kind
of jerks.Well, that’s what my
friend Jim says, and this is for my boyfriend and he is not a male elk at
all.In fact, he is the opposite
of an elk.He is really sweet and
I’m afraid the elk will send the wrong message.You know what I mean?”
Young employee, slightly stunned, “OK."
I went back to the racks of stockings and picked out a bear
Now, I know male bears may not exactly role models either, but this one looks like
the state bear of California so I figure we can go with the whole native
Hope you are having a good time preparing for your holiday!