My Creative Writing Group has been exploring our childhood memories and even though this is about Christmas cards I wanted to share it today.
Preparing and sending Christmas cards was a big event in our house. Mom had a little, silk, multi-striped address book with all the address and phone numbers of those who would receive cards. Stamps were only pennies and Mom would often prepare one hundred cards to mail. It was my job to help address, stamp and insert the cards into envelopes after Mom had written a short message to her friends and relatives. Two people stood out in the little book and for them it was more than a card. Alice and Hilda would receive long letters detailing the events of the past year. This was not the standard copied news letter which has become a staple for some but rather each letter was tailored to the individual.
When Mom’s health failed and she was in the local nursing home and unable to write her beloved letters; Dad asked me to take up the torch for her. I wrote to these women explaining that Mom was unable to do so. I kept them updated on her health as well as Dads. After Mom passed away I continued to write to them each Christmas. I would talk about my husband, children and grandchildren. I did not know Alice but felt this connection to my mother through her. Hilda was a cousin through marriage and had lived next door to us for a few years before moving to Calgary. They responded to my letters and gave me accounts of their lives over the past twelve months. Somehow these letters were a link to my mother.
Two more years passed and Dad died. I updated Alice and Hilda of this change in our lives. Now I was faithful letter writer.
For several years I continued this practice and found myself waiting each December for their letters. A few weeks after one Christmas I received a call from Alice’s son advising that his mother had passed away in June of the previous year. Doug asked how it was that I knew his mom. It surprised both of us that I could not accurately explain the connection between our mothers. We talked of various relatives but could not find a thread that explained their friendship. The only thing we thought was that they had been friends as young women and had kept up their friendship through letters. Doug asked me to visit him if I was in Merrickville in the future. Somehow I never found myself there and no longer remember how to contact him. A link between my mother and Alice had been broken.
I still received letters from Hilda describing her new husband and their attendance to legion dances, their many trips to New Zealand and Scotland. Her children were my distance cousins and as I had grown up with them over the years they lived beside us I was happy to receive updates on their lives.
Two years ago the letters stopped. I did not have the address of my cousins. I tried to search the internet to see if she had passed away. Hilda would have been in her late eighties and her death would not be unexpected.
With the increase in postage and the use of email I do not send numerous Christmas cards as my mother had. Alice and Hilda no longer require my annual Christmas letter. This has been a bigger loss to me than I ever could have believed. What had begun as a gesture of kindness for my ailing mother and my dad had grown to be something special in my life. Alice and Hilda are gone but will never be forgotten and the tradition of a mother and daughter preparing Christmas cards for mailing is lost as well but the memory lives on.