Even in this age of “digitalized everything,” I still get actual paper-and-envelope Christmas cards. Rather than leave them in an unsightly heap on my kitchen counter — where no more room is available — I like to tape some of these postmarked treasures on my refrigerator. Over the years, I have developed a rigorous, scientific method for screening, organizing, and ultimately deciding which of these cards will get that place of honor.
The Early Arrival
This one usually appears sometime in October, and no matter what is depicted on the card all I hear is the sender shouting, “I not only got my Christmas cards out insanely early, but all of my holiday shopping is done as well.” It fills me with the same kind of existential despair I feel when grocery stores start decorating for Christmas at the end of September. And while it unnerves me, I admire the sort of proactive, over-the-top punctuality and blatant organization that an early Christmas card represents. It goes on my fridge as a reminder not to be one of those poor, unorganized individuals who waits until Christmas Eve to do their holiday shopping and is then forced to grab the first things they see at the store, optimistically believing that Aunt Helen will no doubt love the Santa-head Pez dispenser, Wrigley’s Spearmint gum, and a package of AAA batteries.
Not that I personally know anyone like that.
And on a completely unrelated note, I would like to issue a public apology to my Aunt Helen.
The Beach Christmas Card
Photographed during their vacation to some sunny, tropical location, the family pictured on this card is always dressed in gauzy fabrics, sporting suntans, frizz-free hair, and dazzling white-bright toothy smiles. It looks like the sample picture that comes in store-bought picture frames, and it goes on my fridge because (1) I like people to know that I have really attractive friends, and (2) it serves as a reminder to purchase a teeth whitening kit.
This is the card that depicts complete holiday bedlam. The kids are running around, one parent is trying to get them to sit still, the dog is misbehaving, and it looks like Christmas-picture-taking-pandemonium. It seems to suggest that other people are as unorganized as I am, but on closer inspection of the picture, I see it isn’t true. The children are a bit too neat and happy, the parent trying to rein them is smiling, and even the dog looks cheerful. And then I see her, right in the middle of it all. She is the only one looking directly into the camera, hair perfect, shoulders shrugging, and hands raised in a gesture that is meant to convey, “Oh well, I just couldn’t get it together.” It is usually sent by that friend who always gets it together, and it goes on my fridge because I appreciate her efforts to stage a picture meant to make the rest of us feel better. Bless you for trying to appear mortal, you organized goddess you.
The Lengthy Newsletter
These can run anywhere from three to seven pages in length, and if you are wondering who actually reads these letters, I do. Always. Because if someone is going to take the time to chronicle every single moment of the past year, then I’m going to read it, and I am going to display it on my refrigerator. And no need to worry, anonymous writer of the lengthy newsletter. No stranger wandering through my kitchen will read all the details of your life. I have enough Christmas card experience to know that no one reads the letters taped to my fridge. No one.
The People I Do Not Know Card
This is often an extended family group picture, filled with people I don’t know, and it turns into a game of “Where’s Waldo” to find the one or two people hidden in the crowd that I actually recognize. Occasionally it is a photo of grown children that I have never met, or it’s a picture of a dog in a Santa hat that I wouldn’t recognize even without the hat disguise. Whatever it is, it is going on my fridge, with a vow to myself to “reconnect.” And I will make that vow again next year when all the people, children, and dogs are a year older.
The Corporate Card
I always put these on my refrigerator because if a bunch of employees I have never met took the time to search out a small space on a card in which to put their signature, then by golly, I am going to display it. Merry Christmas to you too, Peggy in accounting. I hope your holidays are lovely.
And there it is. My tried-and-true method of Christmas card organization, and if you were thoughtful enough send me one, know that I will lovingly display it on my refrigerator. Maybe next year I will even send out some my own.
Merry Christmas, everyone!