The Christmas Letter

2014-12-04 09.13.49Ah, the annual Christmas letter – beloved by some, mocked by many, and increasingly rare, thanks to the availability of easier, stamp-free mediums for sharing news, like Facebook, texts and Instagram.

I started sending a letter with my Christmas cards the first year I lived more than a car ride away from loved ones. At that point in my life – late 20s, not yet married, on the verge of my first real career – that kind of reflective writing was one of the few opportunities my friends and family had to learn where I’d been and where I thought I was heading. It was part coffee conversation, part late night revelation, and all angst, but an admirable attempt at staying connected.

Later, when I was married with young children, writing a Christmas letter was my annual act of contrition for neglecting relationships the other 364 days of the year. But, these days, I will admit, this letter is written for me.

After 18 years of marriage and 12 years of parenting, my list of favorite moments is pushing the boundary of my memory bank. Yet, my scrapbooks and family photo albums are woefully out-of-date. My journals are all half full (or half empty, depending on how harshly I judge myself). Even this blog/site falls short of my “daily post” goal. So, when I manage to follow through on this one writing assignment, I have both good news of great joy to share with my friends and family, and at least one item for the archives.

Some years, my missive isn’t a letter at all, just boxes of bulleted information, highlights and family factoids, with a family photo or two. Other years it’s been almost all photos, with just captions for context. And, before you find yourself too impressed with me, I should note this year is the first year we had our family photo taken by a professional. Just giving myself the freedom to send whatever I’m able to pull together is definitely the secret to completing this task each year.

If I’ve learned anything about self-care, this is the equivalent of putting my own oxygen mask on first. Before I bake the Christmas goodies, wrap the gifts, plan our travel, or put up our tree, I do this for me. The fact that it’s something I can check off my list and share with those I love is just icing on the cookie!