Reading Between The Lines, Hope For A Family Heirloom


Does this tattered, dog-eared Christmas card record book have family heirloom potential? Only if someone wants it. (Photo by Joe Barkovich)

By Joe Barkovich

Christmas card record books are so telling about our lives.

Mine goes back to 1999.

There have been many entries over the years. There have been some departures.

Taking it out, in late November, can be an emotional experience.

This involves happy emotions. This also involves sad emotions.

This record book has become important to me. It is more than a tracking of cards sent and cards received. It is a tracking of life new and life expired.

I recall writing not so long ago that I hope it becomes a family heirloom. It is near the end of its pages, only a few remain. I think it may be two and part of another. I’m undecided what’s to be done when the last page is turned, when the last group of lines is filled with the last name,  address and postal code of a recipient.

It deserves heirloom status because of data it records. I reflect upon the changes in residential addreses and what led to them. In the case of parents, it usually is age and age’s toll on independence. In the case of some families, it could be employment-related uprooting requiring new routes to new beginnings in a different city or province.

In the case of one’s own family, it could be a change in life status, welcome or not.

My book will record that there is good news and bad news to this year.

First the good: it will show four new names added to the list. Now the bad: it will show two names now with ‘Deceased 2009’ added beside their names. A bean counter might be inclined to tell me: “Look on the positive side, that’s a net gain of two.” I value heartbeats more than beans.

My book reminds me of those who send a handwritten note with their annual card. I look forward to receiving and to reading them. They need not be lengthy, though some are.

They need not be overflowing with information, though some are. The bottom line, however, is that a handwritten note is to be remembered, perhaps treasured.  Someone has taken time to write down his or her thoughts.

For most, I daresay, a lost art.

As expected, some of these messages give cause for thought. Such a one, handwritten below the card’s scripted greeting, arrived just this week. It was: “Hope you are able to simplify during this confused ‘holiday season.’ And we also wish you peace with silence.”

Gifts of modern-day Magi? Simplification and peace with silence were nowhere on my Christmas list, though I have made room for them now.

Fittingly, they are at the top of my list.

(From a collection, this piece is from 2009)

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