I’ve started and stopped this letter several times now. Every time I begin to recount the events of this year, the whole thing seems to focus so much on me which makes me uncomfortable. But many of the big things that did happen this year were about me, for better or worse, and my family deserves an immense amount of credit for supporting me through all of it. Earlier this year I had to have surgery on both of my feet at the same time, which left me unable to walk, drive, climb stairs or do much of anything beyond a slow shuffle for almost two months. As soon as I finished physical therapy post-surgery, I decided I’d sit for all seven of my licensing exams, one right after another. I studied during as many waking moments as I could for most of June and July, then September and October. For a week or two in November I played a little catch up around the house, before launching myself head first into the holidays. Life is full, it is busy, but having the time again to be creative, to pick up a novel and read for pleasure, to run again without pain – it is all so, so good. And so, so about me still. If you could see me right now, you’d see the discomfort.
In December 1999, I decided to make and send out my own Christmas cards. I had recently finished up my graduate work, and I was living and working full time in St. Louis. I had a new apartment, a job that I loved, and a serious boyfriend commuting weekly between Minneapolis and St. Louis – which meant that for half of each week I had a lot of time on my hands. I decided to make a card with snowmen – cut and folded paper doll style, out of oversized sheets of watercolor paper. I can’t recall how I came up with the idea, but I do remember cutting out all the snowmen accessories out of colorful vellum. I made a list of friends and family to send them to, and off they went.
When I headed back to visit my parents and friends, I noticed the snowmen everywhere, on mantels and nestled into wreaths. The guy that cut my hair left them up on the mirror well past the tacky cutoff for over-seasoned holiday decorations. People mentioned they hoped I would keep up the tradition, and several have kindly insinuated dire consequences for being left off of future lists. I’m fairly certain they were in jest, but who knows really.
The tradition did continue. The cards were simpler in the beginning, but the ideas keep coming, and sometimes they develop a mind of their own, with a complexity to match. They have come to be a favorite part of each season’s preparations. It is a gift to have the time to sit in a quiet space and be creative.
When I realized this fall that I’ve been at this for fifteen years now, I thought it might be fun to create a card that incorporated subtle nods to cards* from previous years. I took out all the old ones, and the idea started to form. Those little details were so much fun to make, but the central theme for the card this year isn’t so much about the cards themselves, but about how I’m feeling as this year comes to a close. It was a tough year (but really, aren’t they all in some way?), but I think we rocked it. I’ve rarely had to depend on my family as much as I have this year, but they stepped up in too many ways to count. I wanted to create a card that celebrated home, and a fireplace seemed like a good one. After numerous tries, I finally mastered a pop up fireplace and mantel. I stacked the wall above it high with books, and decked the halls for the season.
In a year that has been trying and difficult at times, in a community that has been torn and battered, in a city looking for a new way forward, in a nation and a world and a planet longing for peace and justice, we are so grateful for where we’ve chosen to put down roots. I don’t think we could have imagined fifteen years ago what this life would look like now. It is deeper, and richer, and more colorful than I could have ever pictured. Thanks for letting me share a little of that with you each year.
Wishing each and every one of you a peaceful season and a healthy and happy new year.
*I put a little challenge in the card insert to spot the old card references. I’ll post the answers after the holidays!
Past Holiday Cards and Messages: