Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas Card Shark

I spent the afternoon today to finish writing, preparing, and mailing (mostly) my Christmas cards for the year. I love Christmas cards for several reasons, and I've been giving some thought to why.

First of all, I "manage" my Christmas card sending in two ways. One, since 2001, I've maintained an address book especially for Christmas cards. It's red. It has "Christmas Card List" embossed on the cover in gold. And I like the fact that it's been in my life for six years now. It's not entirely full, but it's falling apart at the binding, and there are enough address corrections in it that it might be time to start a new Christmas card address book. Any advice on which to get? I could maintain a database, granted, but I like the idea of a Christmas card-specific address book, especially since this one lets me keep track of whom I've sent cards to -- and who's sent me cards in return... and in which years.

Secondly, I like the fact that sending Christmas cards every year makes me think of more people to whom I'd like to send Christmas cards. While you can catalog your acquaintances, friends, and family in social network services online, there's something special about a handwritten and annotated list of relationships. I usually send cards to most of the people on my list, people who send me unexpected cards (I add them to the list.), and some additional people. I've sent cards to the CEOs of companies I've worked for, former housemates, ex-girlfriends -- and their parents -- and even people I've never met. In 2001, I exchanged Christmas cards with Rebecca Mead, a writer for the New Yorker. She doesn't know me from Adam, but I wanted to let her know I appreciate her -- and her writing.

Because that's what Christmas cards are all about. They're a way to keep people in your life who don't play a major role otherwise. They're a way to reassert family ties to people you're related to -- but to whom you don't regularly relate. And they're a way to map relationships and locational proximity in a way we don't don't often have. I have cousins to whom I've sent cards for six years or more who haven't sent a card, letter, or note in return. One of my dad's brothers has never sent me a card in exchange. Still, they're on the list.

One year, I culled the list. People who hadn't reciprocated in a couple of years were removed. I'll never do that again. Instead, my Christmas card list will grow -- and continue to grow. Because sending cards is a way to say I know you, I love you, and I'd like you in my life more than you are right now -- or, I'd like to keep you in my life one way or another.

I sent 43 cards so far this year. I have at least two more I could and should write right now. What's your mailing address? Maybe you could be on my list, too!

Sending cards is also a good way to use up inserts and decals that you've accumulated over the year(s). This year, I used four boxes of Batman cards printed by Chronicle Books bought at Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books, as well as a handful of leftover cards from last year. I also used up two sheets of 2004 New York Post sticker book decals featuring the Jets football team. I don't follow the Jets at all, but I'd kept the stickers. I used almost two sheets of USPS comic book stamps. And I inserted $10,000 worth of hell money in most every card. I bought the hell money in San Diego years and years ago. Why do I still have it? Who the heck knows.

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