December 2018 – “Christmas Letters”

From my earliest memories, I can vividly recall my mother sitting and writing Christmas letters and notes to tuck into the cards she sent to friends and family every year. She spent days picking out exactly the right card for each one on her list and penning each one a sweet personalized note. In her latter years, when writing so many personal letters by hand became hard, I typed up mother’s Christmas letter and duplicated it for her to put into her cards. But, still, she often added personal messages to each card anyway. Christmas, to my mother, was the time to make personal contact with all those she loved.

Coming from that legacy, it’s no surprise that I, too, began to create and send personal Christmas cards and letters after J.L. and I married, with each letter and card filled with handwritten notes, family news, and photos. Early cards I sent were often hand-drawn,  like the two cards duplicated here. The blue card at left with the black and white drawing shows J.L. and I rocking in two old rocking chairs—and as you can see by the bump on my belly, we were expecting our first child. I drew the happy sleigh on the right many years later—when our family had expanded to four. It shows J.L., Max, Kate, and myself tucked into the seats of the sleigh. Inside this card was a poem I wrote starting with these lines: “Dashing through the year … Where did the months all go? It seems like yesterday, I wrote to you before!” I guess that was my creative writing streak surfacing even then!!…ha,ha.

The “photo” years of the children and their news filled most all of our Christmas cards in the years when when they were growing up. I wrote personal letters in my cards through those years, too, tucking in photos of first Max, when small, and then of Max and Kate together over the years to follow. I get cards from our families and friends like these now every Christmas, with photos of children and grandchildren tucked inside. I think we all love our children and want to share the memories of their lives with others.

Growing busier with work and family as the years passed, I began to write a Christmas letter every year I could duplicate in quantity and tuck inside my cards. These letters chronicled the busy events and news of our lives and family during the year—graduations, new jobs, vacations, special events celebrated, and occasionally sorrows. I usually printed these Christmas letters on colorful holiday stationery but others I created in black and white, many with half-tone photos included.

After the children left home to begin lives of their own, J.L. and I began new hobbies and activities. We finally had more free time and more “back to the two of us” time again. We started hiking and wrote a hiking book. I fell in love with the Smoky Mountains in a new way and began to write novels set around the mountains. J.L., busy with his business publishing fishing and hunting guide magazines and selling sports products, and myself teaching college, often eight to nine classes a year, didn’t leave as much time for Christmas letters. Yet, most years I somehow found time to write them anyway. It just didn’t seem like Christmas without them. Christmas letters had become a tradition by then, and loved holiday traditions are hard to leave behind. Becoming more “computer savvy” in those years, I began to create photos cards for the holidays. I tucked these into every Christmas card or sometimes sent them instead of a Christmas card.

Yesterday and today, I addressed all my Christmas cards for 2018. They are stamped and ready to drop into the mail now. This year I didn’t write a lengthy Christmas letter or even a short one. Our lives, and the news of our 2018 year, are much the same as our news of last year … traveling to events and book signings, speaking to groups, attending regional festivals and literary conferences, and working on more books. J.L. said we should simply write: “Christmas Letter Ditto From Last Year.”…  I did, however, tuck a photo into each card as you see below. Somehow a Christmas card without a note or photo just didn’t seem complete.

Today, with so many new friends and fans all across the U.S. and abroad that J.L. and I have added to our lives as authors of fourteen books now … I decided that my old memories about Christmas letters and cards of the past would be my December blog post … and my Christmas letter to all of you. So I’m wishing every one of you a blessed and joyous Christmas season … and a prosperous and happy New Year. May God bless you … and keep you and yours in the palm of His Hand.

I also put this little holiday poem on my author Facebook page in case you missed it: ” Hello December, the last month of the year, …May you all savor holidays full of good cheer! … Hang up your wreaths, decorate your trees,… Address Christmas cards and send one to me!…  Wrap up your presents, offer them with love, …And remember all season the Gift from Above.