The unquickie part is Christmas cards. Linda has a bunch of really nice ones, classy even. That went really well as we worked through my address book. Then the computerized world stopped and Linda went looking for her notebook that has a succession of names and addresses. Let's just say that some of her sisters move a lot, and leave it there. That notebook is nowhere to be found. Like many other things, a great many other things, it's in the house. Somewhere. Cuddled, no doubt in amongst other papers excavated from a surface in preparation for something or other.
So a bunch of Christmas cards are in the mail. If you get one, all is well and good. You will know who you are. Things are more complicated if you don't get one. I could draw up a nice little Visio diagram to document the thought process you could go through to decide if you are upset with me. Essentially it comes down to the variables of have you sent a card, and whether you expect a card from us, and do we know your address. With me it is entirely possible I know where you live, and yet not know the address.
Christmas cards themselves trouble me. Families are increasingly living away from each other. I have family in Ontario and BC. I have friends and acquaintances throughout Alberta, many places in BC, Saskatchewan, Ontario, California, Oregon, and Washington, as well as some less likely places, such as Georgia and Tennessee, South Africa, and Germany. One couple moves around a lot; they could be in Canmore, or any number of places in Mexico or Central America.
I stay in touch with some of these people via email, Skype, Facebook, or my blog. There is still one person more old-fashioned than me (she's 92 for crying out loud, so I guess she's allowed) who occasionally writes real letters on paper. My brother recently discovered FaceTime, and has been having fun with it. I can safely say, dear brother, that 3 am UK time does nothing for you at all.
In spite of that Christmas Cards still come. I don't know if it's a sense of tradition or what. So far the web versions of them are dreadful. Let's look at the sequence of personalization here, short of an actual visit for hugs:
- Personal, handwritten letter. This is the real deal. You know it's them, and you know they put a lot of thought into it, over a fairly significant period of time. Unfortunately, as anyone who has received one of these from me knows, it's not exactly an easy means of communication. My handwriting sucks so bad even I can't read it if I write quickly. If I'm taking notes, on paper, I'm printing.
- Personal, printed letter via mail. Assuming there is significant personal content adding up to a coherent whole, this is almost as personal as the handwritten letter, and certainly more legible. As the degree of boilerplate goes up, you get -
- Non-personal printed letter in the mail. This is good for a mass update of what you've been up to for the last year, sanitized for public consumption. No juicy comments here about the presents your spouse sent back to you when he's been working in the field for too long. Children might be reading.
- The traditional Christmas card. Which might include the non personal printed letter and a photograph.
- E-mail greetings. This might be personal, or another in an ongoing conversation. But somehow it's not quite right for more serious occasions like Christmas. Which is why people send cards, I think.
- Various "things" delivered over the web, demonstrating that some people have entirely too much time on their hands, and should be put to useful work.
At what point does one draw the line for Christmas cards and not send them? Some say only send them to the ones that sent them to you last year, but who has the organizational ability to keep track of that? It's all I can do to order coffee before we run out of beans. And really, how meaningful is getting a card? Am I telling a dirty secret here by saying we production line the thing? How much thought actually goes into the average Christmas card?
Meanwhile the card companies recycle their designs and continue to kill trees by the forest load. Do we really need a mass produced piece of paper to know that someone is thinking of us? And really, how much does one think of our family, friends, and acquaintances on a day to day basis? There are studies showing that people can keep track of 150 other people in a meaningful way. I suppose that tools like Facebook made it easier to keep track of people, but still, the real limitation is in our brain. At the moment I have 126 Facebook "friends", some of whom are rarely ever on. Plus some email and blog buddies, to say nothing of some real life work colleagues and I'm probably around the 150 mark. You'll notice I didn't include Facebook in the above list. I simply don't know where a status update saying "Merry Christmas, ho ho ho, bah humbug" belongs, but I suspect below email.
What about a blog? The cognoscenti reading this could infer a few names from my text, so it's personal to that extent, even if I don't know if they will read it. Does it make you happy to know that if you're reading this, and we were in person, you'd probably get a sincere "
Bah Humbug!", I mean Merry Christmas and all that"? Some would get a big hug too, and you know who you are. In between glasses of wine and the snacks of course.
So. How many cards did you send out? How many did you get? So far. What does it take to get on, or off your list?