Doing Christmas cards, and how difficult I find it. Lee at A Curate's Egg was explaining how, as an atheist, he holds with Christmas, and many other festivials, particularly because we need things to look forward to; depression thrives on looking back.
True, except it seems to me that Christmas is much about looking back, it is built on the accretions of Christmases past, the 'Christmassy' feeling I so often feel disappointed that I don't have, then when it creeps up and bites me when I least expect it I resent or feel embarrassed about or it nearly tears the heart out of me, is surely, at least after childhood, one of the most bittersweet, nostalgic, longing.
Also, how one looks back is very dependent on one's character. Depressives, surely, look back with pain, and persist in doing so, while positive people who tend to cheeriness look back rosily, remember mostly the good times, and this regardless of the apparent outward nature of their past experiences. I am, mercifully, not depressive in any real sense of the word, but I know I do tend towards negativity, melancholy, accidy, lack of self-belief and a host of other spiritual indigencies, and I'm afraid I often look back more with regret and a sense of failure than with joy and a satisfied glow, particularly with regard to my past relations with other people.
So that's why I don't like the ritual of writing Christmas cards, that strange Anglo-Saxon tradition so sensibly incomprehensible to the rest of the world. They are so often that last tenuous, sometimes reluctant contact with people that we have otherwise left behind - "Do you still hear from so-and-so?" "Oh, just Christmas cards...", and as such, for lugubrious types like me, tinged with guilt, regret, occasionally reproach, a sense of the ineluctably sad passing of life, and all kinds of other discomfort.
Or that's one reason. Another is that Tom, who seems not to find the matter oppressive in this way, and tends to propose a full-on attack and a rather factory-line approach to the task, often ends up addressing the envelopes. The matter of forms of address always becomes a point of contention. When so many people don't marry, and those that do keep their unmarried names, or sometimes one doesn't even know whether they are married or not, or when people remarry but their children keep their previous name, when people live with people whose family names I don't even necessarily know, when others hate the idea of a particular title or indeed any title at all, I find it altogether more tactful, simple and acceptable to write their names simply, without titles, or sometimes even just their first names, on the envelope. My mother had good friends who were Quakers, and I grew up understanding that it was an acceptable choice to leave out titles.
Unfortunately Tom was schooled in a set of inflexible formalities with regard to what you should and shouldn't put on an envelope, and finds it an effrontery to his amour propre and unacceptably rude to write simply 'Jane and Paul, 13 Newt Crescent...' or whatever. His idea of a compromise is to put inverted commas around the names - he doesn't go as far as to write sic in brackets but I suppose it's a similar denial of responsibility, ie, this is what she told me to write but I don't hold with it. To me, this looks totally bizarre, like we're calling into doubt that that is the person's real name.
Anyway, we haven't fallen out about it, as all is generally peace and goodwill in this household at the moment, and it isn't worth getting in a tiz about it, or much else really, but I suppose I'm partly writing about it here to let people know that if they get a card from us with their names in inverted commas, or if we've mistakenly assumed you're married when you aren't, or committed any other faux pas, we really aren't taking the piss...
However, the Christmas card ordeal is now all over bar the posting, I'll call a halt to the bah-humbugging, and I relax a little and do a bit more genuine looking-forward-to. Then of course there might be phone calls... oh well, sufficient unto the day.
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The other morning was beautifully frosted. We'd had breakfast in bed, a part of the convalescent regime I can see going on a great deal longer than the necessity for it, and when we came down, the post had brought a wonderful non-Christmas parcel from my lovely sister involving textile goodies and other fun, and a couple of my Vistaprint calendars, which were not bad at all. So to round off the deliciousness of the morning, I hurried out to catch the light, and when I came home again the washing-up was all done!