– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Facebook and the Internet have me much more connected with friends and family than I used to be.
Still, I feel a sense of duty toward a vanishing custom of formal friendship – sending out Christmas cards.
I will return to the old ritual again this week. Sometime, possibly today, I will retrieve a stack of worn address books from a desk at home. Three are black, two are red. The others vary on the outside.
On the inside are the names of everyone who’s made my Christmas card list for the past 40 years. The life expectancy of each book is about eight years, give or take a New Year.
Like many of you, I will set them out on a kitchen table and do what we do with cards.
I know things have changed in recent years. I probably don’t send as many as I used to, I know I don’t get as many. But, I will make the effort, although I know many others will not.
Holiday stress experts suggest sometimes “skipping” a year of season’s greetings.
They maintain this is an excellent way to trim your list. You know, start fresh next year and see who returns despite not hearing from you.
But I can’t.
There are already too many who have slipped away.
I look back through the alphabetized rosters of people I once thought worth the cost of a card, a postage stamp and the time to jot a note.
Some I no longer remember. Who were they? Did I work with them? Go to church with them? Why were they once worth this effort?
Sadder still are the ones I remember so well who are no longer here. On two facing pages in a 1981 address book there are seven who have passed away.
It’s not all sad, though. There are fun insights, too.
I can see my friends from college with addresses that began decades ago with apartment numbers. Then went to high-number suburban listings and now are prestigious low-number locations.
Who would have thought I would know so many people who ended up living on golf courses? Who would have thought I would know so many people?
We come across a lot of them over the years, don’t we? Some are fast friends; some were friends fast.
They’re gone, but not before leaving a name, an address and sometimes a memory – all collected in dog-eared address books with cracked cellophane tape supporting their spines.
And on a weekend afternoon in early December I return to keep that connection.