A Picture Perfect Holiday


There’s finally a reason to enjoy checking the mailbox again. Although each year there are fewer and fewer Christmas cards showing up in our mailbox with everything being sent virtually these days, every couple of days I still find a pretty colored envelope with an actual handwritten address on it. There is something that makes you feel all warm inside to know that someone was actually thinking of you and took the time to send you an actual card. It’s especially so if there is a little handwritten note or your name written in there, but it’s fine if there’s not. I mean, I’m not complaining or anything. My favorites are the photo cards. Taking it carefully from the envelope, I gaze into the happy faces of families on trips, children dressed in matching Christmas sweaters, and cute dogs and cats with red and green bows all smiling back at me looking picture perfect. And I think to myself, “What a lie.”

I didn’t always feel this way, of course. In fact, once upon a Christmas, I sent out cards myself. The first one we sent out was our first Christmas together after we were married when we were creating holiday traditions to last “till death do you part.”

For our first Christmas card we wanted to keep it easy. My husband dressed as Santa Clause, and I wore a cute little red skirt with white fur trim. The cat tried to scratch the living daylights out of me, and our Chihuahua was scared to death seeing my husband dressed as Santa and wouldn’t stop barking and growling like he was rabid. Only our basset hound cooperated and lay there half asleep. If you look at the final picture, though, it looks just like we had the absolute best time.

The next few years we kept it simple and did not include the pets, though the dogs tried to eat the pies, the elderly neighbor called to report she saw lightening coming from inside our house (the flash!), and we found ourselves shooting it outside just as a marathon of hundreds of runners were right on the sidewalk in front of our little house. Every year it seemed to be some kind of unexpected situation. Then, we welcomed the arrival of our first child one month before Christmas. That was easy. He slept right through it, so did we.

For some reason, our Christmas cards seemed to grow right along with our family—in scope and scale. No matter what was going on, we were sending a Christmas card. People expected them and called to ask if they were on the list. People used them as decorations. It got more and more difficult to keep track of everyone’s addresses, and moves and divorces and remarriages. Stamps got more expensive. We created spreadsheets. I almost sent out a “now hiring” ad for holiday employment. Still, we sent out cards.

One year we flew back into town just in time to don our coats and pretend to be carolers all while holding a tired toddler, and pretending to sing while my husband was shaking the fake snow to fall and taking the picture all at the same time. We look like we are having a ball.

A few Christmases later, we welcomed our baby girl, and we hired a babysitter to help. The card was getting more expensive. As the kids started growing up, they had feelings about “The Card.” One year we were all pretending we saw Santa, and right then and there our son wanted to have “the talk” about Santa. The more we put him off, since his sister was there, the more insistent he became. Still, we got a great picture.

The year that we were pretending to be going on a trip stands out as a particularly difficult one. When our daughter wanted to know why there was nothing actually in her suitcase and why we weren’t taking her favorite clothes and toys, and was told that we were not actually taking a trip, she pitched one of the biggest tantrums I can remember to this day. Still, that picture is one of my favorite Christmas cards.

Then, over the years, came school Christmas plays, Girl/Boy Scout Christmas projects, piano recitals, soccer parties, class parties, studying for exams, you name it, and we found ourselves trying to fit our Christmas card into a hectic holiday schedule. And I started to notice a little of the behind-the-scenes of the chaos of “real life” sneak into the pictures. At that point, we all agreed that after 17 straight years of family Christmas cards, “till death do us part” had come, as we were ready to kill each other. The tradition came to an end.

Today, we love looking back at our cards of Christmases past, and we laugh at all of the memories. So, even though you won’t get a Christmas card from us, I wish you and yours a very merry Christmas and happy holidays! And, I can’t wait to get to the mailbox to see yours.

Leave a Reply