Random Thoughts

Cards Coming and Going

... touching base at least once a year

by Ann Robbins Talbot

Being snowed-in for a day has a great advantage. In the midst of a very busy season, everything gets cancelled or postponed. Concerts, basketball games, luncheons, hockey tournaments, dentist appointments, shopping excursions all will happen when the roads are plowed and the footing is safe. For a brief moment in time you can live within your own four walls and spend the time as you choose. I chose to take a good, long look at my Christmas cards.

Of all the traditions that pop up at this time of year, sending and receiving season’s greetings are the best. So many people that you have met along the way take a moment to tell you they remember you, to share with you their joy in celebrating another year. Often the focus of a card is a photo showing how the family has changed since last December. I slot these into the top of my Governor Winthrop desk so I can study them at mealtime. This year many a photo has blossomed into a collage of activity which I love to see. And with the convenience of a computer, yearly letters become longer with highlights as well as details of the past twelve months. Each family follows its individual track but pride of achievement is common to them all.

I never have enough news for a letter, but I wanted to tell old friends that I am doing all right and have continued writing. I had had the experience of making business cards on my computer which was a very easy task. A business card is just enough room for a couple of sentences, so voila – I wrote a quick note to insert into my chosen Christmas card. With ten business cards to a page, I have plenty of blanks for the next couple of years, as long as I can remember where I put them.

As far as I could find out from the Internet, the first person to think of selling Christmas cards was a British civil servant named Henry Cole. He had worked on the introduction of the first postage stamp in 1840 and was too busy to write to all his friends. Henry commissioned a designer named John C. Horsley to design a card saying “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year To You”. In 1843 (the year that Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol), Cole commissioned 1000 cards. He used some and advertised to sell the rest.  A tradition had begun.

I began my love affair with Christmas cards when my parents allowed me to open any envelope that stated “and family” after their names. The postage was probably three cents and the cards themselves were mostly double-folded thin paper with a drawing on the front and a greeting inside. The Currier and Ives lithographs were popular as was Santa Claus looking his jolly self in many poses. The first cards I sent myself had a picture of a modern young woman with a sweeping skirt and fur hood doing her shopping against a city skyline. Actually I never owned the skirt or hood, but the skyline was no doubt Boston in the heyday of Filenes and Jordan Marsh. I have never been dependable as to my theme. One year it may be Madonna and Child, another a lighthouse in Maine, this year a path into snowy woods, the scene from my window this very day. I have always been partial to the Magi because they make such a pleasant picture.

Looking at this year’s cards, I notice that the paper stock has become heavier with many having embossed country scenes. The art work is lovely. Snow people are popular as are starry skies. Santa is not present very much. A few have 3-D foldout novelties. And I have received several clever greetings online. Many people are using computer generated address labels although they still sign their cards inside. I savor each one as a gift of their time and good wishes. I hope they are thinking of me fondly as well.

January 5, 2009

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