Some time ago, I was invited to give a talk at my high school. My hometown has a foundation set up to fund various educational programs, and every year it hosts a dinner for high school honor students featuring a distinguished alumnus/a as guest speaker.
Distinguished alumni being thin on the ground that year, they ended up with me. I talked about Christmas cards.
Specifically, I talked about the symbolic nature I’ve always associated with Christmas cards. To me, they represent people who have some clue about how to be functional adults. Being able to maintain a list of addresses for friends and loved ones, thinking far enough ahead to purchase cards and write messages in them and mail them in time for a pre-Christmas arrival, being able to locate stamps in one’s home — these are things that strike me as signs of a responsible grown-up.
Needless to say, these skills elude me utterly. I look at people who send Christmas cards out and wonder if they got a secret brochure full of tips and guidelines for knowing what the hell you’re doing on a day-to-day basis. While I take comfort in knowing I am not alone in my sense of general cluelessness, it is nonetheless disheartening to know I exist alongside people with organized lives, who manage to plan things weeks… nay, months in advance without regularly resorting to last-minute scrambling. I, on the other hand, had to skip my recent twenty-year high school reunion because it did not occur to me to request a change in our office on-call schedule (or even look at said schedule and note that I was down for call that weekend) until it was far too late to make any adjustments.
I concluded my talk by telling the assembled students that, if a wreck like me could still cobble together a functional-seeming adult existence, they could too. I believe it was well-received.
All of this sprung to mind when I received an absolutely lovely hand-made Christmas card from a friend a week or so ago. (You know who you are.) And I was reminded all over again how woefully incompetent I still feel when it comes to [insert major or minor life skill seemingly grasped by 99% of adult human beings]. Thankfully, the Better Half (who will happily tell you about the den of horrors I called my apartment in New York City before he arrived to make it habitable) is much better about approximating functional adulthood than I am, and has ordered Christmas cards. But (probably because I drag him down with my ineptitude) we rarely get them sent out to everyone before December 25, and must take comfort that Christmas technically lasts until January 6 and we’re still on time when viewed from a liturgical perspective.
So that’s this week’s Question — does anything symbolize for you what Christmas cards do for me? Do you see people around you who seem to move with ease and intention in life and wonder how on earth they do it? Do you ever feel like your world is held together with sisal twine and wads of chewing gum when everyone else’s is spot welded, and if so what serves as a reminder?
And for those of you who celebrate it, Merry Christmas!