In our new world of emails, e-vites and e-cards, it’s a wonderful surprise to open my mailbox and find an envelope that doesn’t in any way resemble a bill or an invitation to join Direct TV. They’re fairly rare during the course of the year, but the weeks around Christmas bring red and green envelopes containing traditional holiday cards and letters, along with the popular personalized photo greetings.
Each year I select my card carefully because they are a reflection of me. This year, I chose a decidedly nostalgic card featuring a red toy truck, a teddy bear and a candy cane — no doubt influenced by my two young grandsons.
One of my fondest holiday memories is addressing Christmas cards with my mom at the kitchen table. The project took a couple of nights as we wrote a personal message and signed all of the names for a family of eight. But that event kicked off the holiday season, followed by cookie making, tree trimming and present wrapping.
One bedroom at my parents’ home is dubbed the “cookie room” and no one really wants to sleep there on Christmas Eve because it’s so cold! But if you get hungry in the middle of the night, you need simply reach out and choose from the platters of Christmas cookies waiting to be given as gifts or laid out for guests. This year my mom limited her baking to 11 different kinds of cookies, which is quite a cutback from years past. Every family has their traditions and my mom is at the heart of ours — not only with the baking, but also with all things Christmas. She delights in buying for her children and their spouses, grandchildren and their friends. Her elves are Amazon, the UPS man and my sister. She has stacks of color-coded gifts under the tree and tucked in every corner of the living room waiting to be unwrapped Christmas morning.
While mom is the whirling dervish of Christmas, my dad has his own part to play — mostly sitting in his corner chair on Christmas morning, commenting on all of the “garbage can material” that is being unwrapped, and then gathering up all of the festive paper and non-salvageable bows and stuffing them into a big plastic bag. It’s a scene that plays out year after year, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
When it comes to gifts, there’s an unspoken competition among us kids as to who will make Mom cry and Dad tear up — a safe bet is anything with family photos. But really the only thing they want for Christmas can’t be wrapped. They want time with their children and that we happily give them every year.