Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Little Book of Christmases Past

I managed to send out some holiday cards this year. It's a time-consuming task, requiring an inventory of names and addresses, a supply of stamps and cards.  

I completely respect the choice of many not to add holiday cards to their to-do lists, which are already impossibly long. 

I hear those who point out that buying and mailing holiday cards is not green--all that paper and energy used to convey one sentiment from place to place, when sending it electronically is more efficient and clean. True!

However, having some time on my hands, I decided to send cards, and I'll tell you why: It gives me the opportunity to look back on a long life and remember all of the people--family and friends--of whom I have so many memories. 

It's humbling, and sobering, to realize how much time has gone by--that I now know so little about my old friends' lives.  

One friend who had been in a relationship for 12 years told me that they broke up in 2015.  

Another couple--both friends of ours--broke up, and I was too embarrassed to ask when, or for what reasons.  My seasonal wishes were welcome, but it was too late to offer support, or to demand a full report. Still, she was happy to hear from me. It is good to be remembered.

We're supposed to focus on the "here and now," but it's not like we have much choice. We have to live in the here and now most of the time just to function; we rarely have time to look backwards and return to where we have been.  

Sending cards gives me a solid excuse to spend time in the past, the greater part of my life that is submerged and invisible, like the vast expanse of the iceberg that you can't see except for that part protruding above the ocean's surface.  

My address book is over twenty years old.  It's small, with a soft leather cover. It was publishing swag in its day. 

A dog has chewed on the leather. I don't know which dog, any one of five.  

There are as more addresses in this book with an X struck through them than there are current addresses. 

There are two addresses for my father, who passed away in 2009.  

There are people in this address book whom I can no longer call friends.  

I thought I'd lost it.  I choked back the sick feeling that I had let my one thin tether to these people slip through my hands.  If they hadn't friended me on FB, they were gone.  

I told myself it didn't matter. Let go of the past.  

But with great relief I finally remembered where I had put it. My address book. The past.

For years, I planned to transcribe addresses into a new book. 

But if I did that, I would lose all those crossed-out addresses--everyone's history.

I'd have to make painful choices about who goes into the new book and who gets left behind.

I never want to make those decisions. 

So, though the leather cover is shredded and the binding has come unglued, and coffee has been spilled on and near this book, I will keep it, just as it is. 

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