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Friday, December 10, 2010

On Line, All the Time

Before I dared call myself a plain old writer, I was the world’s most prolific letter writer—single-handedly keeping the Post Office in the black for years before it started to tank. Beginning at age 16 until well into my 30’s, I wrote copious, and sad to say, long-winded missives to all my distant (i.e. anyone who lived more than a half-hour from me) friends. I stalked the mail box hoping for return posts, but to tell the truth, no one could (or had the energy to) keep up. Then email came on the scene and as with the rest of civilization, my letter writing habit dwindled. I still communicated, just via a different medium.

In spite of this evolution, there remained one area in which I refused to give up on pen and ink until a few years ago. Starting the day after Thanksgiving, I’d generate a Christmas card list, sit at the dining room table and write each recipient a detailed note, going at it each evening after work until my elbow ached. It seemed important to reach out to those I care for but rarely see—perhaps these personal letters would remind the receivers of how much they mean to me, in spite of the years and lifestyles distancing us.

Then, somewhere in the mid-2000’s, time took a 100-yard dash away from me. That year, I agonized for a while, but finally wrote a first ever “blanket letter” that I sent with apologies to everyone on my Christmas card list.  The kicker is, no one seemed to mind. By then, those who remained in the card-sending-world (and I acknowledge my dinosaur status in this regard) had embraced the one-letter-fits-all short-cut; the few folks who even commented on my defection to the dark side cheered me on.

Nevertheless, it still doesn’t feel right, and after purchasing Christmas cards today (note, a full two weeks after Thanksgiving), I gazed into the dining room.  For a moment, I thought about replicating the diligence of those earlier decades, but naaa. The inventory for LCSPrints resides on the table in there, leaving no room to write 50 (!) something cards. Off I went to the computer to craft a year-end update.

Before getting started though, a quick check of email revealed a first-of-the-season online Christmas card.

That figures.  Here I am worried about sending a generic letter, when as usual; I’m miles behind the times.  Electronic everything it seems. Yes, I know, send it online, save a tree, but since when can you hold an E-card your hand?

Besides, there’s the guilt. After all, it was likely the reduction in volume resulting from my switch to email in the 90’s that dragged the Post Office down in the first place and I won’t kick a guy once he’s face-planted on the dirt.  Therefore, I refuse to contemplate how much a Christmas E-communication would save me on the cost of stamps.


Tabitha Bird said...

I hate e cards. They seem impersonal. Call me old fashioned, but I like paper :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

We still send out a small batch of Christmas cards with a letter and short note to everyone. Okay, my wife does all this. But we don't send email cards.

EmptyNester said...

Our Christmas cards include: a 'blanket' letter (I call it our Christmas newsy letter), a family picture, and a personal note actually written on the card--depending on the recipient. And I never hear much from anyone about it. That is, until I don't send it and get yelled at!

glnroz said...

not only Christmas cards, but all writing has changed. In the days of Black and White TV, we refered to letter communication as being "pen pals" and I remember listing the time in my head thinking "I should be hearing from ...so-n-so". I think i might write a blog about that,, lol.. BUT, yesterday a customer deducted Tax from an invoice and i needed a tax certificate and I started an email,,but stopped,,took out a letterhead and "hand" wrote a thank you note and asked for the certificate. It actually felt good, and I believe it will get quicker response. Interesting that you wrote about this today...

Colette said...

Wow, it's been a long time since I've sent Christmas cards in the mail. I still get a few... but only a trickle, and they rarely include personal notes.

Elana Johnson said...

I do think there's something special about holding something in your hand. It's about POSSESSING it, rather than just being able to open it and read it. You know? (The same goes for published books vs. ebooks, IMO.)

Hope you have a great holiday!

Lydia Kang said...

It's the thought that counts. And I'm sure all your recipients will enjoy thinking of you, no matter what you send.

February Grace said...

I'd much rather still send snail mail cards but the past three years, with my health it's become impossible. Just something I can't force into my limited eyesight schedule.

I miss sending regular letters, too, I've had pen-pals since childhood and still have a friend or two I write 'real' letters to when I can, the rest of the time we write 'real letters' in email (salutations and all.)

I look at my sealing wax and seals and sigh- I don't get to write nearly as many handwritten letters as I'd like. There's a sentimental romance to it- a very Anne of Green Gables feeling I guess, and I miss it.

My sister sends me funny postcards in the mail now and then, sometimes pretty ones, sometimes from cool places she's been. I still love them.

I don't feel bad if people send an e-greeting at the holidays, I take it to mean that life's gotten away from them, as it has me, and they wish they could do more. I am happy to know that any friend kept me in mind, no matter how they can fit it into their schedule!

Happy Holidays!

Jennifer Shirk said...

as much as I love ebooks and emails etc... I do like a handwritten Christmas card. There's just something personal and homey about it.

Jon Paul said...

I've had a similar experience over the years, with a gradual decline in my card-sending volume over the years until I finally gave up the ghost sometime after 2001. It is a lot of work, and you're right: it doesn't have the social value it once used to.

Funny though. I still have about ten shoe boxes full of all the old Christmas (and Birthday!) cards I've received over the years, and I simply can't bring myself to throw them away. Last time I checked, you can't keep emails or e-cards in shoe boxes, and maybe that's a shame.

Helen Ginger said...

E-cards will probably become the standard before long. I've never done the long, this is everything we've done in the past year letters, but I do still send Christmas cards via the snail mail.