Got me a goat for Christmas.
A friend posted on Facebook that they weren’t doing Christmas cards this year, but instead, they had sponsored a goat.
Thanks to their thoughtfulness that makes me, and all their Facebook buddies, givers not takers. Givers of goats at that!
What a marvelous idea: save money (and trees) that would be spent on cards; buy goats. What’s not to like?
Problem is, I just can’t ditch the cards.
Don’t get me wrong, when three small book bags are placed upon the porridge smeared table, and the illegible offerings of four-year olds are produced in all their glittery glory, my Christmas card commitment is challenged.
There is no organisational system in the world equipped to decipher the handwriting of year R pupils, track who has sent what cards to whom, display cards in a way to produce adequate approval of the recipient, and find a pen that works to reciprocate the offering.
And what of the cards to be sent further afield than the red paper post box in the school hall? When the decade-old address book cannot be located, the knowledge that all my contacts are more readily available on Facebook, or twitter or text taunts me: just message people, surely?
But still, I persevere. I find a pen, or pencil, or crayon, or old eyeliner, and I write.
The battered address book, once found, is placed in front of me, as are piles of blank cards. Some fun and tacky, some tactile and tasteful, some handmade by the kids.
Like a poor man’s Santa, I select the most appropriate card for the appropriate person. Some receive festive stamps, some make do with standard 2nd class. Some cards contain photos, others are respectfully left empty. Some get a garbled update, others just a brief ‘ho ho ho’.
It’s an art, not a science. It takes time.
I start at A and work through to Z. I list addresses via first name in that book. We have entries under every letter.
As I make my way through the names, the pile of blank Christmas cards dwindles as my memories overflow.
I see old addresses crossed through. I remember good times in tiny houses.
For those I see regularly, I smile at recent moments shared. I wonder, ‘what next?’ for all of us.
Friends long-lost are still in that book. Some faded away as part of unspoken agreements when past relationships failed. I wonder what they are doing now? How their kids are? If they are going through a similar process and thinking of me?
I hope those old acquaintances are well.
I write to friends who still see people that I am no longer at liberty to get in touch with. Will my card prompt a mention? Will the conversation be melancholy or mundane? Do they miss me? Does it matter?
The hardest moments are the names that are no longer there to receive a card. Old bereavements resurface afresh. It’s painful – I rarely get to the end of that book without shedding a tear or lamenting at how unfair life is. Somehow, though, it’s important.
Once written, various piles of sealed envelopes appear as follows:
- The nursery book bag
- The year R book bag
- The year 2 book bag
- Kid’s club leaders
- The hand deliveries ready to give
- The royal mail deliveries ready to post
The cards with vital information missing, such as new addresses or newer babies with names that allude me, find themselves covered in post-its, prompting me to find the requisite details. In my heart of hearts I know I will find these unsent cards stuffed down the back of the bureau in years to come. For now, I remain optimistic that they will find their owner in time for Christmas.
The whole process can take around four hours, goodness knows how many trees, and wastes a lot of money that could no doubt be better spent on goats.
Once completed though, it always seems like the time has not been wasted at all. Rather, it has been very well spent.
Each person that is dear to me has been all that I have thought about, even for a few moments. I feel connected and loved and loving and warm. Although admittedly, the warmth could be something to do with the half a bottle of port I consumed while writing.
You must understand, I am not knocking the goat gift. I think it’s marvelous. My plea to you this year is to also give Christmas cards a chance.
If you are worried about the yule-ish waste, those cards that soon become rubbish can no doubt be put to very good use come the New Year.
I hear goats eat anything.