It’s fun to stick my hand into the mailbox these days to see what’s in the stack. Sort of like those surprise unraveling balls we used to buy when I was a kid. What will be next? In the old days it was probably no more than a cheap little plastic heart, or a tiny marble. Christmas cards are better; we hear from real people, some of whom send us messages only once a year. What have these friends been up to over the past twelve months? We find out. Others send us a photo–a small work of art that, like a thoughtful present, lifts us up.
This year we are receiving baby pictures, as young couples in the family proudly display their infants dressed in red and white while held on Santa’s lap, or snug between them. The parents’ faces radiate pleasure, satisfaction, and hope. These young families are building their own holiday traditions, creating Christmases that they, and eventually their children, will remember.
I think of our parents, how they would have loved getting to know their great-grandchildren, to see their individual characteristics come alive so rapidly. But they are gone. It will be up to us–the grandparents, great-uncles and great-aunts–to tell the stories of the past generation to these babies when they are old enough so that they come to know the characteristics of their ancestors in the same way we are now discovering those of this newest generation.
I am glad that in December, 2009, the tradition of sending Christmas cards still exists; little gifts of remembering and sharing come in the mail, always more satisfying than a plastic heart.