The year I lived in France I made my own cards from thick red stationary, an opaque white ink and a new quill pen that gracefully scrawled Joyeux Noël across the top. One of my favorite cards ever was an Eric Gill woodcut of the Nativity scene:
As soon as we had Cecilie I needed no further excuse to send out a photo of my charismatic little one. She's had some cracking photos in her time. In subsequent seasons we've enjoyed reviewing photos of the kids to find one that might work on a printed card.
For most years of our marriage, Torbjorn and I have worked together, drinking mulled wine and eating clementines whilst we made small notes to friends in the margins and addressed envelopes to send around the globe. These are some of my happiest memories of Advent seasons past - the joy of preparation.
And yet. And yet. There is no card awaiting dispatch here in the Nilsen house this season. There are only two other Christmases when we let this happen: one was The Worst Christmas Ever (naturally), the other was the Christmas Annika was born (I kept hoping I could combine birth announcement with Christmas card, and neither happened.)
Every time this thought runs through my mind - just forget it - send the cards next year - it is immediately followed by E.M. Forster's quote: Only connect. (It's very unsettling actually, to have this insistent thought pairing pop up again and again through the day.)
This process, this ritual in which we participate, the sending of the cards? Some might sigh over it's 'rote' factor - that we do it because we feel we ought to. Some might feel that sending anything other than an e-greeting is irresponsible and eco-un-friendly. Certainly a printed card is not the only way to connect - it's just one method that this stationery buff happens to loooove.
But the connection is what seems to be slipping away from us.
This urge to let friends far and near know what has happened in your lives this year, to let them know they are in your thoughts, to let them know they're not forgotten in the busy pace of your life: this is connecting. And yet, how often are we mindful that we do this, or mindful of how central it is to our relationships?
I've thought to myself that perhaps a constant connectedness with each other via Facebook, email, cell phone - even Twitter - might simply override any connecting that involves more traditional holiday greetings. But I will tell you that one of the most meaningful holiday cards I received this year was from a friend I've never met in person: we've connected daily through Facebook, so much so that it absolutely feels natural that I should have a photograph of her gorgeous boys on my shelf.
There are many many ways to connect these days. What I want so much for us to remember, though, is this: with the surfeit of options open to us, we must be mindful of what we are doing. We are reaching out to what is mutual, what is shared between us, and no matter what form the connection takes, let us always be conscious that the meaning in our lives comes from connecting, and knowing, those around us.