I received a Christmas card from my mother today. In it were two photographs — one of my nephew from his graduation party, and the other of my children, a copy of a photo my wife sent her earlier this year. On the back of the picture is the caption, “Alexa and Maddie, ages 8 + 5.” I did a double take because I recognized the picture automatically and I wondered why it was returning home. My wife realized the full portents of that image before I did, explaining how my mother sent out cards to everyone with pictures of her grandkids because she is proud of them. We were simply included in the mass mailing. I just had to laugh because it sounds exactly like something I would do, or something I have done before. The apple truly doesn’t fall far from the tree.
It’s all about convenience, I guess you could say, which is fine. My mother likes to get all her ducks in a row, so she probably copied all of the photos at the same time, signed all the cards at the same time, and mailed them all out with two weeks to go before the big day, assuring that they arrived on time, even to the remotest of places. She probably even picked out the stamps in the most auspicious way, by asking to see each of them in turn and choosing the most festive style. That in turn makes it all convenient, the whole process, once you break it down into its component parts, and that’s also why she didn’t pause for a second when sliding those photos into the cards to remember that we sent her the photo in the first place.
I find as I get older that I’m all about convenience more and more too. It’s so much easier to do mass mailings, to slot in names instead of writing out individual messages to each person. After all, who really reads the card anyway? And if you’re that important to me I would have personally talked to you several times between the time you sent out the card and the time I received it. So the people who know I care despite the mass mailing don’t mind it at all, and the people who are fringe anyway get some lovely photos and don’t even recognize that it’s a mass mailing. Win-win.
Which reminds me, we haven’t mailed off our cards yet. Last year I think we waited until the very last possible minute, standing in a long line at the post office on the 20th or 21st with our fingers crossed that they would arrive when they needed to and not a moment too late. There’s nothing worse than knowing the cards you sent out are spending the holidays in post office boxes around the country instead of on mantels or on dressers, brightening someone’s day. We do have a variety of cards too, some for people who we’re close with like family and close friends, some for others who are relative acquaintances, and still more for those who we knew way back when who send us cards every year so we reciprocate. We’re cool like that.
And guess what? That first level of close friends and family will receive heartfelt messages from us in their cards, while the second and third groups will instead get a lovely printed message and our names signed at the end. But everyone gets photos, so congratulations if you made the cut. Alexa and Maddie are 8 and 5, respectively.