So I wrote Christmas cards this year. I finished them at 1:30 a.m. in the wee hours of Christmas morn', as a matter of fact.
And if you're sitting there wondering, "What's THAT about?," you are, in fact, a straight male. And I simultaneously am jealous of and hate you.
The rational mind asks: Well, why did you feel compelled to write out Christmas cards until 1:30 in the morning on Christmas? Wasn't that a little late at night? Wasn't that a little late in the season??
If you'd asked me that when I sealed the last envelope, my answer to all three questions would have been, "Shut up."
But, time has passed. I've slept a little since then. So, to answer all three questions: Guilt.
See, last year I didn't send out any cards. Not even an e-card. So, like any good part-Irish American, I was guilt-ridden about it all year. I imagined how many close (female) family members held a grudge because they got their acts together and sent out cards, while I shirked my duty. I mean, they knew I wasn't laid up in the hospital or suffering from a broken hand. Which brought me to feeling bad about the faraway (female) friends who sent cards and didn't get one in return. Did they wonder about my health and welfare? Would they, too, be ticked that I didn't send anything? Was I destroying relationships and alienating myself because I wasn't getting around to caring enough to send the very best via the U.S. mail?
Probably none of that was happening, of course. Except the part about my family.
Nevertheless, I decided to break out the cards I bought last year but didn't get around to mailing. Who knows why? Maybe because 2011 would have been the first year since having children that I wasn't mailing a "picture card."
When they were little, Cara and Ryan graced the cards wearing adorable little holiday outfits. Ryan wore knit holiday sweaters. Cara had velvet dresses. One year we even got a Santa hat into the picture.
As they got older, asking them to pose for a picture seemed about as likely as a Middle East peace accord. So I would head to my computer to pick one that captured how fun-loving they could appear to be. Who knew it was only for a second or so?
Then there was the time two years ago when I picked a photo and had it made up into 75 greeting cards -- at which point Cara declared she hated it and began mounting a protest to bar me from mailing it to anyone. Rather than declaring martial law and just shipping them out anyway, I went through the process of picking another photo, getting another card made up and going to the store to retrieve them. Only to get home with cards that had some other kid's face looking out at me.
So, there was that.
Cut to last year. On top of everything else, I kept reading about how everyone was sending e-greetings. Or getting Shutterfly to send their cards for them. All you had to do was choose a photo, choose a card, choose an inscription, input or upload all your addresses and voila, they'd mail your cards for mere hundreds of dollars.
Well, as 2012 went on those same sources that ran stories about how e-greetings were so now and wow began running stories about the beauty of the hand-written letter. The excitement of an envelope in the mailbox. The death of the U.S. postal service.
So, yeah. I felt bad. I had taken the excitement out of not just the 2011 holidays, but of someone's overall expectations for the possibilities the mailbox could hold. And I had contributed to the further decline of a U.S. institution. My inability to get my #*! together last year would help lead to mass layoffs -- on top of the mass grudges from the family.
Hence, this year I went in a whole new direction. I made an e-card, and sent it to friends and family. I also posted it on Facebook.
AND I hand wrote cards. I looked up addresses for those who had moved but whose location wasn't logged into my ragged address book. I wracked my head remembering the names of relatives of friends I hadn't seen in a decade or more, just so I could seem more together. I even went to the post office and bought stamps!
Sure, they didn't actually get mailed until the day after Christmas... But hey, I was dedicated. To saving face. Saving jobs. Oh, and keepin' merry....