I rarely long for the “good old days.”
That’s not my style.
But I do sometimes think about the past and the millions of decisions made, many that I would have changed. But I don’t dwell on those decisions. I can’t do anything about what happened 10, 20, 30, 40 and more years ago.
All I can I can affect is the present … and the future.
Still, when it comes to Christmas, there is one thing I long for.
The once-popular tradition of sending and receiving Christmas cards is not much of a tradition anymore.
I was really into the Christmas card thing. I sent out cards that were silly, and hopefully funny. I spent a good amount of time searching for a box of perfectly irreverent cards and envelopes. And then I would spend more time searching for and reading and selecting and de-selecting 5 to 10 truly unique cards for some very special people in my life.
Friends and family have learned to not expect anything serious on a card that comes from me. Occasionally, I’ll send a small gift, or flowers to a friend — sometimes anonymously — because well, there are others this time of year who just need a pick-me-up and a reminder that they are loved and cherished.
And, to be honest, the thought that I played a part in making someone else smile makes me feel good.
Growing up, my mom used to send out dozens of cards at Christmas. I know, because I used to get dry-mouth licking the envelopes and stamps before my dad and I carted that big box of cards to the post office.
That was fun.
Receiving cards in the mail is one of the best parts of Christmas. Daily, starting around Dec. 10, the mailbox was full of colorful envelopes adorned with stickers and stamps and hand-drawn pictures. As a child, I would usually get to the mailbox before mom and dad, and if I saw a card addressed to “the Kent family” it was fair game. I opened it and read it before anyone else.
By Christmas, there were sometimes a hundred cards and envelopes and snapshots in a big Christmas card basket .. or hung from the fireplace mantel or stairwell or around a door jamb or refrigerator. There were letters from friends and relatives all over Ohio and from different parts of the United States. There was a family — I believe from Oregon, someone my mom knew from growing up in Mansfield — who sent a card each year with a round-up of whatever that family had done during the year. I didn’t even know them, but I enjoyed reading about their trips and graduations and vacations.
Today, Christmas cards in the mail are few and far between.
Until about 10 years ago, I sent out lots of Christmas cards to family members, high school friends and their families and co-workers. And then I waited for the returns. It was fun.
As the years went by, the number of cards I addressed lessened. The cards I received in the mail became less, too.
That trend has continued. To be honest, I have probably mailed out fewer than a two dozen cards in the past two or three years and have received fewer than that.
This year, life and work have so occupied my time that I hadn’t even thought about Christmas cards, let alone decorating for the holidays.
I haven’t put up any decorations at home the last four or five years. I don’t get a lot of visitors, and Beatrix, my pitbull, has kind of a “bull in a china shop” persona. One knock on the front door, or one errant toss of one of her toys, and any decoration would become a jumbled mess of broken bulbs, lights, tinsel and branches. My two cats aren’t really into decorations either. Too them, managers pieces or candles or little snowmen or Santas and raindeer are just more objects to push onto the floor with their busy little paws.
Anyway, last month I bought a green and red and black Christmas sweater for Beatrix to wear, so I figured I had the decoration-thing covered.
But last week I received a Christmas card.
It came from Kaitlin, who grew up in Knox County, but now lives in Colorado. Actually it came from Kaitlin and her boyfriend Dave, who one day I hope to meet. Kaitlin is a good friend. I miss her. We worked together at the Mansfield News Journal.
She came into my life and made a huge impression. Her smile and her passion was contagious. She always will be someone I am deeply fond of. It’s been fun watching her grow as a person and as a reporter. I loved watching her become more confident as a writer and even now, I read her work from afar.
Kaitlin is a crime reporter at the Colorado Springs Gazette. And even though she is 1,300 miles away, she remains one of my favorite people.
That card was a big surprise. It made my day. In fact, it may have made my entire holiday season.
Thank you Kaitlin!
That’s why Christmas cards are special, and why I hate the fact they are not something people care about anymore.
Facebook salutations and emails and Tweets and Instagram greetings are OK, but they just aren’t the same.
Christmas cards are special. Even if there is nothing more than a Merry Christmas Russ, and a signature at the end, it is something that has been personalized.
That personalizing is missing in a lot of lives.
So this weekend, I plan to go shopping … for stamps and Christmas cards and, well, maybe a few other things.
Since I received my card frm Kaitlin, I even did a little bit of decorating.
OK, so it’s just a big green Grinch wreath with a red stocking cap courtesy of Teresa Hoeger on my front door. But it pairs well with the Grinch on my desk at work and the Grinch sweatshirt Shelley West Clark is making for me.
But it’s a start, and it’s more decorating than I did last year, or the year before that.
So, if you find yourself with a few spare minutes in the next week or so, get a card, look up an address, and send it to someone you know who might be feeling a little down, a little lonely this holiday season.
You might be able to make someone else’s day, too.
Russ Kent is editor of the Galion Inquirer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org