Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Season's greetings

It is January 2 and by all rights I probably should have removed all evidence of the holidays by now. But I just can't bring myself to take down the dozens of cards that adorn my dining room wall. My excuse is that international mail is iffy and with the cards still arriving at a rate 2 or 3 a day, the ones still some to come deserve some display time, too. It's a flimsy excuse, though, and I know it. I'm simply not ready to let go just yet. I pause to gaze at the wall dozens of times each day, and I've noticed that my children and Paul do the same. We are all drawn to the smiling faces, the preprinted messages of holiday cheer and scrawled handwritten notes that hang there. Each one brings us such obvious pleasure that I am seriously beginning to consider leaving them up all year. Hell, it's not as if we have anything else to hang on that wall.

We all have our favorite cards, some which are treasured because of the people they feature, others which captivate purely on the merit of the gap toothed grins they display (there are a lot of missing teeth among the 6 year old set on our wall this year). There are some pictures of children I've never met before, born in our absence, and countless others of kids who would probably not even remember me at this point. A few have puzzled Julia and Evan ("who's THIS?"), but most are easily recognizable to me; everyone's grown over the past year just as my own children have, but the faces are familiar nonetheless. I note the changes as I study these photos, but appreciate most the things which remain the same. This one still won't smile for photos. That one still has that distinctive grin. I know that crumpled nose, that gorgeous mane of hair, that impish expression. If I still know these things, surely I will still know these children when we get back to the States, right? A handful of faces have changed so much that I scarcely recognize them, and it is these that I return to the most frequently. I gaze at their frozen images as if I can somehow get back all of the milestones I've I've missed while we've been away. Perhaps if I can burn their matured faces into my memory, they too will seem familiar to me when we return.

I've always enjoyed the annual sending and receiving of holiday cards, but here in London, our display of cards means more to me than ever. The grinning faces of our American friends and family are comfortingly familiar; the "we miss you" messages both heartwarming and meaningful in this, our second year away. The sprinkling of cards from friends here in London are new this year, a symbol of the real and lasting friendships we've finally begun to develop on this side of the pond. Those will be the ones that arrive bearing airmail stamps at this time next year, I can't help but think a bit sadly as I admire them. This is an odd time in our lives; we are between and betwixt and there are times when it feels like we don't belong anywhere at all any more. But from both sides of the Atlantic, here are the smiling faces of people who consider us a part of their communities. I doubt any of them realized just how much comfort and reassurance they were sending when they slid their pre-printed photo cards into an envelope for us and checked our name off their lists. But I am incredibly grateful for it all the same.


Blogger mumof4 said...

Yes I so understand what you are saying about the cards and keeping in touch. Cards arriving now from UK mean more to me than they diud when we lived there. We are still getting cards arriving late...some are postmarked after Christmas (why send them then?) so it is no real surprise....Are you enjoying the Sales? I just went to Target and stocked up on Christmas bits for 2008!!

7:22 PM  
Blogger Iota said...

I've good news for you. In America, you put up Christmas decorations early in December and take them down as soon as Christmas is over. In England, we put them up just before Christmas (although it is getting earlier year by year), and the Christmas season is considered to be "The twelve days of Christmas". So you are totally ok not to take them down till Jan 6th - although it is bad luck to leave them up after twelfth night I'm afraid.

9:57 PM  
Blogger Tattie Weasle said...

Do hope you don't mind hopped in from Iota's page and having read you blog was just going to add like Iota that they stay up 'til Twelth Night in the UK then down...have no idea why!
Can so appreciate the joy and wistfullness that must descend when you look at all your cards - as an Army Brat I can fully emphasise as we were often away from friends and family for years at a time...strangley enough it is wonderful now as we have friends all over the world and getting cards from them at this time of the year brings back all sorts of joyful memories - we also have loads of places to visit on holidays too!!!

4:53 PM  
Blogger Badness Jones said...

I still have all the cards and letters that friends from home sent me the year I spent in England. That was 13 years ago. And I remember that not quite knowing where you belong feeling's kind of like the last days of a pregnancy, not knowing whether to make plans, waiting for that momentous life change....and just as worth it.

7:48 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

If you haven't received mine yet, you have one more a'coming. So leave them up a bit longer and wait for me? ;)

Such a sweet post. And, for what it's worth, I have a difficult time taking my cards down too. They are still up for this year, though the tree and stockings are down. (I wait for Twelth Night for everything else.)

3:46 AM  
Blogger Victoria said...

We live 12 hours from most of our family and favorite friends. We leave their holiday cards up for months, if not the whole year - on a bookshelf in our quiet room. I frequently find one of my kids (mostly the Girl) looking through the pics.

Ah, to keep in touch, right?

8:50 PM  

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