Postcards, mail… I hear excuses against this beautiful mode of communication, more than about folks participating. “Stamps cost too much”. “We’ll be home by the time it arrives”, is the attitude on vacation. When I was young, I got it: the power of tangible ties. Even if someone was out of touch, I reasoned: “all the better to reconnect”. Thus when I was 8 years old, my Mom started me on my own pack of stamps and Christmas cards.
I knew doing it myself, meant more than a name penned on my behalf. I’ve never missed a year from that day. I find it wise to begin early; updating (or crossing off!) recipients, preparing envelopes. When I worked in retail I could foresee a busy December. Begin any time. We know when Christmas is 365 days in advance!
When my Grandma wondered if she was too shaky to continue her list, there was no need for her to miss out. She & I made a tradition together! Every year we sat down with her address book and cards for her to choose from. She put unbelievable thought, into who got what! With envelopes readied by me and the year jotted in the corner, she would sign her own name.
One year my youngest brother, usually out with pals, somehow heard I was visiting Grandma to do cards. He asked to come along and we made a conveyor belt of address book / envelope / signature. It was the warmest session of all. We chatted; asking our 80 year-old elder the meaning of life and if she missed Grandpa. I slowly noticed she was managing more than usual; a personal sentence each! Her recipients would be thrilled. When we left, we saw to her stamps. Instead of hanging onto the pile, Grandma always felt her cards might as well be mailed right away.
You see, we prepared them in mid November. I’ve heard: “people will find it odd to get a card early”. But just as my eye is on the mailbox from Nov 1 to my birthday (November 18!); Christmas wishes should arrive in the weeks leading to the event. It’s about anticipation ~ not aiming for the precise day. Grandma hung whatever she received, which became bright decorations. I adopted her tradition and am glad of the earliest cards for our string.
The week-end after the unique trio session with one brother, Grandma wound up in a hospital. It was unexpected but not alarming, because she was of sound mind and had always been short of breath. All my family went over, really to keep Grandma company. But it became a vigil! She was so much herself, no one would have guessed the hospital check-in was final. She went to Heaven, with those she loved most surrounding her. It occurred to me: when phone calls went out that she had died, the shocked recipients would have just gotten her cards! I’ll bet everyone kept the card they received and instantly regarded it as gold.
No one who hears Grandma’s story, minds cards arriving early ever again. I didn’t dream that in 2006, I would create my own line; of my cats, wildlife, Canadian scenes. I miss all four of my Grandparents but thanks to starting early; relatives and old friends have precious souvenirs from my well-loved Grandma, in her own writing. I tell our poignant story, to inspire others to consider the difference between a humorous point & click animation; versus a hand-to-hand memento that crosses a lifetime.
Carolyn M. Riedel,
Founder Of Riedel Cards.