I look across the room and see our red basket. It used to be just a basket until Mr. Legs painted it and it was given a special job. It holds Christmas greetings that trickled in during the month of December and well into January…even February. They are from friends and family all over the country. We have received greetings from other countries as well. Christmas has passed, but the red basket remains.
Like others, we receive different kinds and styles of mailed Christmas greetings. Some are funny. Some are craftily handmade. Some include beautiful pictures with well wishes, heartfelt sentiments or pretty poetry. Some are personal pictures or picture collages. They all come tucked in envelopes addressed to us. Every Christmas, I look forward to them, enjoy receiving them in the mail, delight in reading them, and put them in that red basket, where they sit near us for months waiting for another look. I like seeing our basket. It represents our connection with family and friends, a lifetime of relationships. It’s a treasure box of sorts.
As a military family, we lived in different places through my husband’s twenty years of service, and we met a lot of people along the way. We formed friendships in different places and all of us moved on from where we were. We wrote, and we write, letters at Christmastime to let each other know what we did all year. We also send greetings to relatives who we seldom see because of the miles between us. Early in our marriage, traditional cards began to include letters as we summarized the year behind us. We’ve been told our letters are enjoyed, so we have continued to write them.
We receive many of the same kind of letters from others, letting us know what the year looked like for them. We have read about their travels away and their adventures and challenges at home. We have watched friends age, and have seen their children grow up through pictures in or with the letters; and we’ve seen their children’s children. We’ve enjoyed being remembered and remembering them. Every year, we are happy to hear from every person, every family, that sends holiday greetings in any form; but we especially enjoy the letters that tell us what the year has brought to them and, yes, what or who it took away.
While growing up, our children were involved in the writing and sending of the letters. They were military brats (an endearing term referencing a lifestyle, not personality) for a portion of their childhood. They were interested in hearing the news of family friends when greetings came from them. One of our children, over 30 years of age, still looks through our cards/letters when he visits, and I love it that he connects with them. Other people/families have lived in one area, so their lives were different from ours and their Christmas greetings are simpler. Thinking about this caused me to consider the different kinds of greetings we receive and what they mean to us.
I imagined the mail as the sender actually coming to the door. Cards with names printed or signed are like knocks on the door to say hello and Merry Christmas as they pass by. The cards with a personal note represent a conversation at the door, maybe a question showing personal interest in how we are doing. The letters, however, are like the sender coming in the door, sitting down with us and having conversation. It takes time to write a letter. I am glad for each greeting that comes in the mail because it represents someone who thought of us. The letters, that seem like personal visits, are my favorite.
Years of creating Christmas letters, which are summaries of our year’s activities and events, not only shares news with others, it has documented our family’s history. We keep them in a small binder and look back on them from time to time. I’ve kept all of my Mom’s wonderfully written and always meaningful Christmas letters. And I keep all of the newsy letters until the next year’s letters replace them.
I suppose one day, these kind of greetings you can touch may be a thing of the past. I hope not. The red basket will eventually be moved sometime this spring, but not before I look at all of the cards again; and read the letters one more time. And when December rolls around this year, the basket will again appear to hold the new greetings.