The first December after I graduated college was the first time I had ever sat down to write and send Christmas cards. My friends had scattered around the globe and as a great believer in the galvanizing powers of the holiday season, I turned to snail mail as a way to reunite. My university athletic department had sent an alumni donation-ask letter accompanied by a page of mascot-embossed address labels.
I threw out the ask letter and kept the address labels. They were happily put to use on festive red and green envelopes that contained messages of merriment and well-wishes.
My family has never been particularly good at sending Christmas cards, so when my mother saw me in front of the fireplace one blistery afternoon with my address book and a stack of glittery “Seasons Greetings!” cards beside me, she looked puzzled.
“What are you doing?”
“Attempting to be a real adult.”
Besides letting people know that they’re being thought of, sending holiday cards is a declaration of stability — I have my act together; you have a home I can send something to; I have a return address. To me, sending Christmas cards was something responsible adults did and I was going to try my hand at being a responsible adult.
I’ve gotten a new address book since then — an upgrade to the prodigal little black book.
I mean, physically, it’s a small, black moleskin book that fits easily in my back pocket. The fact that more than 2/3s of the names in it belong to men really says very little about my romantic life — don’t open it expecting to find a sophisticated coding system ranking fellas from bootie calls to potential soulmates.
As I began addressing envelopes this year, I realized this is actually my third address book in the 5 years since I graduated college. The previous two had been so marked up with changes as friends moved from New York to New Zealand, Hong Kong to Houston, or united in marriage or found domestic partners, or terminated relationships bound for happily ever after.
In an attempt to save myself from having to make another investment in an alphabetized notebook, I began writing only names, mobile numbers, and email addresses in pen. Spouse’s name and addresses were added in pencil.
If Christmas card writing/receiving represents a kind of adult stability, then my address book stands as a testimony that life as an early adult is anything but stable.
“You could just send an emailable card,” someone suggested when I told her I was sending “address verification” emails to a handful of friends.
Sure digital greetings save a certain amount of angst around the holidays, but I like writing Christmas cards — and not just because it’s an affirmation of a kind of grown-upness. Because it’s a reminder that even when life is unpredictable, there are always a few things you can count on — your friends, family, and a little Christmas spirit.