Every year this happens, and every year I have a series of self-abusive thoughts. "Why do you wait so long," "why do you do this at all," "just save them for next year, nobody will know," "you might as well by non-themed cards and just give up and send them in February every year anyway" and "everyone is going to make fun of you." Then I think "no, NO! The point of this is to write to people and spend a minute thinking about them. That is not a Christmas-only sentiment."
I order a ton of letterpressed cards, which is my biggest personal vice. They're expensive, and I suppose they will mostly end up recycled, but to me they are the most beautiful things on earth. If I were a billionaire I would surround myself in letterpressed items. I have some letterpressed stationary, which I've never used, because I don't want to use it up. So I'm not going to waste these cards by doing a shoddy job with my letter-writing. I spend a while matching cards to people (this year I ordered a variety of about 15 different cards...overboard even by my standards), and then get to writing.
That part isn't easy, either. I want to write a good letter to everyone. I want it to be meaningful. I want to perfectly express how impactful this person or family is in my life. Somewhere in this part of the process I start to feel weird about how hard this is for me-- the art of the personal letter is eroding, I feel, and despite my four pen-pals, I can't seem to master it.
Once that's all done, the hardest part begins: tracking down addresses. I have address books and emails, but half the people I know seem to move every year. Or they get married and change their names or don't change their names, which takes some investigation, or they have a kid and I have no idea what his or her name is. Addressing the cards takes even longer than writing them.
But somewhere in this stage, looking up apartment numbers in Poland or the name of a baby boy born in upstate New York, I am slammed with how lucky I am. I know so many good people who are too cool to stand still. There are cousins I'vereconnected with and old friends I've hunted down, just so I can send them a piece of thick white paper with a pear pressed into it. My friends are librarians, food writers, parkour instructors, occupy Wall Street leaders, opera directors, opera singers, teachers, puppeteers, foundation project managers, writers, parents, kids, and professors. They are really busy. Some of them had really wonderful years and some had really terrible ones. Some of them I haven't heard from in a long time, so I have no idea how their years were at all. It's worth sending them paper and stamps and sentiment, to say, here, I still love you, you know, just a reminder.