COLUMNS

Ready: Here’s my very real Christmas card insert

Staff Writer
The Destin Log

In the up-and-coming stage of life, I received computer- generated letters printed on festive holiday paper and tucked inside elegant Christmas cards. My cousins and acquaintances used this yearly communication to proclaim their accomplishments over the previous year. It wasn’t really about catching up; it was about how smart, talented, and beautiful their kids were, how splendidly their careers were going, their vacations to exotic places, and how much material “stuff” they’d accumulated. Somehow these “feel good” epistles rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe I was jealous of their prosperity. Maybe I was just irritated by the self-aggrandizement. Or maybe I was just mean-spirited.

One year, giving in to my dark side, I wrote a parody of these exultant Christmas letters, recounting how the IRS was after us for tax fraud; my oldest son was in jail; my younger son dropped out of college and ran off to parts unknown, and Grandma accidentally burned down our trailer while I was out on a drunk because Frank had left me for a stripper. I briefly considered sending this dismal dispatch to the folks who had annoyed me with their happy mail, but decided against it in case someone might actually believe my plethora of pitiful tales.

Years went by, and the content of their letters changed. Now, my Christmas contacts are writing about deaths in the family, divorce, aging parents with Alzheimer’s, business losses, and failing health. One cousin revealed in her letter that she had just found the child my uncle had forced her to give up at birth. What a shock. I hadn’t known her sad secret during all the years of her cheerful Christmas letters.

My previous mocking melted into empathy for shared sorrows and joys that become part of life as we grow older. Those letters and little printed inserts tucked inside Christmas cards became a testimony to the tough year survived and the hope for a brighter new year.

The content wasn’t all doom and gloom. But the good news tended to be those things money can not buy. Things like fishing trips with a grandson, the healing of a broken relationship, having the whole family together for Thanksgiving, and the safe return of a son or daughter from Afghanistan.

This year, I’m writing my own year-end review and inserting it into my Christmas cards. I tried to balance the bad with the good while assuring my recipient that whether triumph or tragedy, I’ve known God’s watch care and His grace.

Gentle reader, consider this my Christmas card insert to you. It is real. It is personal. And it may remind you of your own burdens and blessings in 2015:

“Merry Christmas 2015, dear one. I hope your year has been a good one with blessings, victories, and great joys, but I’m guessing you’ve had your challenges, sorrows, regrets, and losses as well. It’s just part of being alive. On this second Christmas without him, l continue to miss Frank terribly, but I’m getting a little better at living alone and making decisions I used to let him handle. Sometimes, out of the blue, I break down in tears when someone mentions him. But then there are days when I think of him and smile at the memory.

I still own the car lot he left me. I have a good manager/business partner who runs it for me, so I’m not hands on involved. It supplements my retirement, anyway. James has changed boat brokerage firms and now works for Great Southern Yachts. He loves selling boats or anything to do with whatever floats on water. Just like his dad. He and his family live just across the yard from me. Damian lives in Woodstock, Georgia, and works in Atlanta for a marketing firm as a research analyst. I have no idea what that means, but he’s good at it and loves his job. I still write my Saturday column for the Destin Log.

My four-year-old granddaughter Catherine (Catie Bug) is the delight of my life, and I spoil her outrageously. My daughter-in-law Elise is more like a daughter to me, and Nicoleta, my Romanian daughter is now an American citizen as well as a psychiatric nurse practitioner. She works at Florida’s mental hospital in Chattahoochee. My 95-year-old mom, who insists on living alone, is still feisty and going strong. There have been some bad days this year, but for me and my family, we are blessed and count it all joy.”

Praying you are blessed and lifted up in the joy that comes only from our Lord.

Agape, Mary Ready

Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.