Category Archives: Xmas

The Holiday Salutation Admonition

It’s that time of year y’all!

Whether you call it Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or nothing at all. This season belongs to all of us.

Lovingkindness, no matter your religion (or the absence of it) shouldn’t be forgotten this time of year.

I made a different version of this, one which is music I composed myself so that the social media platforms couldn’t block it.

Love, X

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Xmas Redux

Erika’s brother drew the original. I spent an inordinate amount of time meticulously creating and editing a png version of his artwork. I started with a picture I snapped of the artwork. There’s something intangible about this Santa, rendered with hundreds of deliberately layered scribbles. It seemed like I owed it to Chris, even though he’s gone and I never met him.

This Santa captures the unkempt fatigue of attempting to reward everyone with the Xmas gifts they deserve. (Much less the horror of knowing who has been naughty or nice.) I joke that Santa could make a fortune selling the naughty list to certain people!

As I do every year, especially now that it’s Black Friday… Don’t let the season distract you from enjoying it the way you want. For some, it is a religious celebration. For others, it is a social season, one punctuated by gatherings, bacchanalian feasts with friends, family, and events. Some sit quietly and simmer in melancholy of bittersweet remembrances of the people who’ve left them.

Xmas is what YOU want it to be. Not the traditions you don’t cherish, not the obligatory exchanging of gifts. You are housed in a body that is a gift in itself. Being yourself and radiating your wit, humor, and affection is more than enough for the people who appreciate you.

Of all gifts I enjoy, I like the goofy, surprising ones. And most of those are moments, not things.

Don’t get me wrong, I love someone surprising me with an ornate toilet seat, a collection of foul-tasting novelty candies, or even a ream of colored paper. It means that person likes me enough to have taken the time to surprise me. It also means that they are happy enough to want to share a sliver of that with me.

Giving people are rarely joyous. Have you noticed that?

Many people loathe that Xmas starts early, especially the music that often accompanies it. They complain about trees showing up in houses “too early.” The stores loaded with commercial offerings. I don’t understand that. To each his own.

The Xmas season is when people can surprise others without the pretext of a reason. Even a hug and a “Merry Xmas,” or whatever salutation you prefer.

I’ll put a picture below, one I made a long time ago – and one that surfaces on the internet with frequency.

Love, X
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The Pond: A Christmas Story

Janus and Rob sang along to the Christmas music as they drove through the rural roads. They both disliked holiday music – except when they were together. They then caroled each other constantly, to their friend’s horror. Neither sang well. Their howling dog Sir Barkalot consistently voted loudly with a wail when they sang for too long. In the confines of the small car on a cold winter December 24th, though, they created the perfect repository for their mutual enjoyment.

Neither dared think about their destination. It was enough to continue the tradition, now unbroken for thirteen years. They woke up on Christmas Eve morning, drank a gallon of coffee each, and then wrapped themselves in warm clothing and drove to the same cherished spot.

Because they’d done so for thirteen years, Rob already knew he had to stop about halfway there; otherwise, Janus would howl in mimicry of Sir Barkalot until he did. As they sang “Little Drummer Boy” in raucous unison, Rob noted the mile marker that indicated he would have to turn off the main road in a couple of minutes. Janus must have noted the same thing. As “The Little Drummer Boy” ended, she mashed the audio button to “Off” as they neared the turnoff.

In the back seat, there was a small lunchbox. Inside it: two rocks, one from each of them. Each year, the lunchbox changed to something similar to whatever was popular.

Rob navigated the turnoff and slowed. The gravel road was rough, and almost no one traveled it. Luckily, this year, there was no snow to worsen it.

He recalled spending weekends with his grandparents, who had lived nearby. He accidentally discovered a deep, surprisingly clear pond on his adventure excursions. It was there that he proposed to Janus years later. She screamed, “Yes!” much to the dismay of all the nearby birds.

Rob drove to the poorly-maintained gate and stopped, turning the ignition off. “Are you ready?” he asked Janus. She nodded.

They both exited the car. Rob opened the back door and removed the lunchbox. He looked a bit absurd, he knew.

Despite the cold, he held Janus’ right hand as they passed through the gap in the gate and fence. Within a couple of minutes, they reached the pond. It wasn’t frozen over.

Janus leaned to kiss Rob, who was already expecting it.

He held the lunchbox out and opened it. “Don’t look,” he reminded her. “How am I going to know which rock is mine, then?” she asked. It was their joke each year. She peeked in and removed her rock.

Rob put the lunchbox down on the brown grass and removed his rock.

They walked to the edge of the pond, staring at the water.

Janus looked at her rock to read the name written there. “Jacqueline,” she whispered.

Rob read the name written in marker on his rock: “Suzanne.”

Some years, the names were both boys’ names; never had both been feminine.

Janus threw her rock first. It was an awkward toss but sailed halfway across the vast pond. Rob launched his rock, and it landed within a couple of feet of the other bank.

Janus motioned for Rob to come closer. He stood next to her with his left arm around her waist. She tilted her head onto his shoulder as they both stared across the pond. Both of them were considering a life that almost was.

A few moments later, they both felt the moment pass. They turned to walk back to the waiting car.

“Do you think your mom and dad are tired of Astro yet?” Janice laughed as she asked Rob the same question she’d asked him last night and again this morning.

“Duh! An eight-year-old wants everything. They probably have him tied up on the front porch rocking chair at this point.” He paused. “You know what, though? We should stop for breakfast on the way.”

They both laughed, knowing that they would indeed stop.

By the time they turned around to leave the old gravel road, both were thinking of the beautiful Christmas awaiting them. And how much they had spoiled their adopted son Astro.

They counted themselves among the lucky few. Loss? Yes? But life and love also.

Janus hit the “On” button to resume the Christmas music. They both wanted to howl and sing as one should on such a day.

Merry Christmas!

Love, X

Sunday Christmas For Janice

Sunday evenings often provide me with encounters that other days don’t. I’m not sure why that is.

I was out and about, buying mismatched birthday/get-well/occasion balloons, a flutophone, spatula (all of which are of course traditional birthday surprises), and various ridiculous things for a belated work birthday shenanigan. A woman was at the register. She had only two dollars. “I’ll pay for the rest with my credit card.” She sweated a bit, waiting to see if it would be authorized. The clerk wasn’t the most sympathetic. He radiated irritation. The woman hid her embarrassment well but I watched her body language as she cringed at the treatment. It took her two tries to get it to go through.

Although I had entered with a light heart and a bit of joy due to being creative in trying to let someone know we hadn’t forgotten them, I have to admit a bitter flare of anger lit me up. I could feel it behind my eyes. I flicked my wrist and saw that my heartbeat had elevated considerably on my Fitbit. I wanted to shout at the clerk but then I reminded myself that I have a superpower that all of us have if I could just stop judging. Even the few one-on-one rapid self-defense sessions I had reinforced the idea that we owe it to each other to disengage before we act.

“Hey Janice,” I said loudly to the woman as she got her bag, a little red-faced. “Wait a second. I have that money I owe you.” Her name wasn’t Janice, but she stopped and turned. I held up a finger to ask her to give me a minute to check out. She was just confused enough to wait.

“Merry Christmas, sir,” I told the young male clerk.

“Yeah, ok.” He seemed unhappy. He looked at his watch.

“Are you having a rough day?” I asked him, smiling.

“You have no idea,” he said.

“What can I do to make it even a little better?” I asked.

“Let me go home. My girlfriend texted me and told me she was putting my stuff outside if I didn’t come home soon.”

That stopped me cold for a second. I was surprised by his honesty.

“I don’t know what you’re going through but I can see you’re stressed. I would be too. Take a minute and call her, don’t text, even if your manager doesn’t want you to. Tell your girlfriend you love her and you will talk to her when you get home. Trust me.”

“Just like that?” He asked.

“Yes, just like that. Assuming you do love her, she will give you a couple of hours to come home and work it out. And if she doesn’t, it wasn’t going to matter what you did now or not. If that happens, I am so sorry.”

He looked at me like I had burst into flames.

“Okay, thanks. I’ll try anything.”

“Would you do me a favor as a kindness?”

“Yes,” he said.

I softened my voice and leaned in: “Tell my friend Janice there that you are sorry for snapping at her and wish her a Merry Christmas.”

He did. Janice listened, stunned, as the clerk said, “I’m so sorry. I’m stressed. Please have a Merry Christmas, Janice.”

Janice smiled, still a bit confused by it all, but happy the clerk had acknowledged his rudeness. “Merry Christmas to you too,” she replied, her voice cracking a little.

I nodded at the clerk and smiled. “I wish you the best. Now go call your girlfriend and let her know how much you need her. Everyone needs to hear it.”

I grabbed my handful of bags and bundle of helium balloons.

I turned to Janice and pulled the ten-dollar bill out of my pocket and handed it to her. I’d been given the ten dollars to help buy a few goofy items for the birthday shenanigan. The person who gave it to me would have wanted it to go to Janice instead. Of that, I am certain.

“I know you’re not Janice. I just wanted the clerk to think we know each other. This is for whatever you need. It’s not a lot because I don’t have a lot.”

Janice took the bill from my hands as I balanced all the things I’d purchased.

“It’s okay. Don’t say anything. Just remember that sometimes the universe is listening, okay?” She nodded. I think she was a little choked up. I know I was.

I smiled and walked out of the store, my anger gone, and my thoughts filled with hope that the anonymous girlfriend was going to get a call to let her know she was loved. And that Janice forgot the embarrassment at the register and remembered only that someone wanted her to have a Merry Christmas.

Love, X

P.S. I’m going to go wrap a flutophone and spatula. As we all agree, they are ideal birthday presents for someone who has everything.

A Gift From Him

The 30ish man sat on the grass next to the little pantry. Beside him was a box of Pop-Tarts that he had removed from it. As I walked up I couldn’t help but notice how dejected he seemed. A worn backpack sat to his right. Something about him radiated either loss or being at the end of his rope.

I put my unneeded jacket in the car. I remembered that I had an emergency $20 bill folded below my driver’s license. Removing it, I walked over to him and said, “Not that you need it, but this is for you and Merry Christmas.”

He looked up at me and at the $20 bill I extended to him. I can’t be sure what went through his mind but I saw it on his face. The $20 might as well have been a thousand and he was incredulous that someone was just giving him money. I’m not going to lie, but I felt this overwhelming urge to tear up.

“Merry Christmas to you too! God bless you.” He didn’t smile but his face registered a type of relief that I hate to see on someone else’s face.

“God bless you too,” I told him as I smiled and walked away.

I don’t write about these moments to make myself feel or look better. The moment already elevated me and gave me a boost that I didn’t even know I needed.

I hope the man remembers that life is sometimes good and surprising. I know I do. I wish I had a thousand to give him, no matter what he might do with it.

Love, X

Camels For Christmas

Because it’s Sunday evening, I went to the inconvenience store. Walking in, I realized I left my wallet at home. Having tried to do so before, I know they don’t accept good looks in lieu of payment. Even so, I’d still be short, according to popular opinion.

Arriving back home and giving kitty treats for the tenth time today, I hung my jacket up and decided to skip going back. I drank a protein drink and without thinking about it, found myself back in my car (with wallet) and driving. Going North on Gregg, I watched a white sedan weave and swerve for no discernible reason. Another intoxicated driver. Either that, or she was Tiktoking with an invisible phone.

I turned right to get away from her indirect line of direction and went to one of the fancier inconvenience stores. Outside, two men were arguing. To me, it seemed like one of the two had asked for money from the other. One was a younger man, dressed well; the other, not so much. I could have been wrong. Instead of hesitating, I walked up and said, “Hey Steve, I haven’t seen you in a long time!” The younger man looked at me and tried to figure out who I was. “Do I know you?” I laughed like a goof. “Yes, I’m X. Didn’t we go to school together at Fort Smith?” He shook his head. “No, I don’t know you and I didn’t go to school in Fort Smith.”

It didn’t matter. The spell had broken. He walked away, leaving the less well-dressed man standing there.

“What do you need?” I asked him. “Honestly. Beer, food, cigarettes, a ride, just ask.” I smiled.

“I’d like some smokes, honestly,” he said.

“What kind?”

“I love Camels but will smoke anything.”

I grinned again to let him know I was okay and that he was okay. “Be back in a minute.”

As I entered, I recalled memories of my Dad smoking Camels. He died on November 30th, 1993.

I exited the convenience store and handed him a pack of Camels and a lighter.

“Have a good night. And be careful of people. Not everyone is as great as I am.” We both laughed. He could tell I was being funny for his benefit. “My name is X. What is your name?”

“Jim. Thanks, X.”

“Jim? Have a Merry Christmas.”

“You too, X.”

And so it begins.

Love, X
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From An Old Soul, With Love

Among the things I once did a LONG time ago was to find and gift used vintage holiday cards. Not only is the artwork a surprise and delight, but it brings me nostalgia for times I never knew.

This Xmas card is postmarked on Dec. 21, 1909.

Now, years later, I love using my genealogy ability to find either the receiver or sender and look back at their life. If I wanted, I could find one of the descendants of William Early. William, to whom the postcard was sent. I could unravel the entire biography for the sender, Bessie McGivern of Galesburg, Illinois. She aged into a beautiful woman. I found several pictures of her.

I don’t know the sender’s and receiver’s connection.

But I love that I COULD find out if I wanted – to crack open a spider’s web of connections throughout history, time, and geography.

So, when I see used vintage cards, I don’t see relics or dusty, useless reminders.

When I give them, I’m giving something of myself; the admiration of life shared. You might not know it by looking at me, but I feel a kinship to some of the old ways. Of writing, of postcards, of delayed communication. If you get one from me, I’m also reminding you that life is fleeting and that one day our lives will be footnotes, memories, and details.

I see art.

I see life.

I see footprints of those who preceded us, much in the same way we’ll precede those who follow.

Time. Love. Connection.

Love, X
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P.S. *You’ll note that back then, “Xmas” was completely acceptable, before disinformation spread to lessen its beauty.

A Darling Christmas Story

“Save that spot for me!” The words echoed in her memory as she stood in the kitchen, staring at the empty rocking chair next to the ornate tree. Though her heart wasn’t in it, Susan begrudgingly pulled out the bins of Christmas ornaments earlier and studiously rebuilt the tree. Her mother’s constant reminder to everyone in the family still lingered in the air, along with scents of fresh pine and the dozens of cookies Susan’s son Sam and daughter Sue baked each holiday season. Last year, they made more than sixty dozen. The pastor of the church could not have been happier. When the kids presented him with a case of cookies, he excitedly informed them he had a freezer for just such a contingency. Neither had the heart to clarify to him that the cookies were intended for the entire congregation rather than the pastor himself.

It was Susan’s first Christmas without her mom. Everyone was supposed to call her mom “Darling,” a name she picked up while singing. The term used to annoy Susan. Total strangers called her mom Darling. Anyone who used her nickname with a bit of creativity earned a famous cackle of laughter from Darling and sometimes a quick kiss on the cheek. Darling loved giving kisses. “Johnny Cash gave me that name. If it was good enough for him, it’s good enough for anyone.” Was the Johnny Cash story true? No one knew. But it might have been.

For the last several years, Darling insisted that the rocking chair be carefully aligned near the Christmas tree and that she be able to claim permanent dibs on sitting there. It was an enviable spot. Not only could the occupant of the rocking chair see outside to watch everyone drive up to the house, but the floor vent was nearby, ensuring warmth that wasn’t guaranteed around the rest of the drafty living room. Factor in the prime observation spot for both passing out and opening presents, and it was the perfect spot to observe everyone. And as everyone found out with Darling, it was also the ideal point from which to bark orders, criticisms, and sometimes, encouragement.

Everyone enjoyed pretending to be unaware of Darling’s rule regarding permanent dibs on the rocking chair. Pastor Evans, who wasn’t faking his ignorance, found himself being unceremoniously harangued in front of a houseful of guests two seasons ago. He tried making his case with her. “Now Darling, there is a wonderful glider rocker over there closer to the kitchen!” She glowered at him and said, “Well, move your keister over to it if it’s so darned comfortable!” The pastor sheepishly changed seats after picking up another cup of famously-strong eggnog. Under his breath, you might hear him tell no one in particular that one had to drink around Darling to keep one’s sanity. This was more memorable because Darling always managed to sneak in another bottle of whiskey into the eggnog. Only Susan was aware she did it. “If it doesn’t ring your gong, why are you climbing the bell tower,” Darling loved saying. More than one person undoubtedly drove home from their Christmas get-togethers with a buzz. Darling could hold her own when drinking. She toured with many rowdy country and gospel singers when she was younger. No one turned the lights off when she was still in the room.

The Friday after Thanksgiving, one of Darling’s neighbors dropped by to give her some leftover turkey. She found Darling sleeping on the porch swing. When she shook her, she realized that Darling had passed away. The coroner advised them that a massive stroke killed her. A full cup of untasted coffee sat on the antique table next to the swing.

Susan considered not having a family Christmas this year, but she knew Darling would be very unhappy to hear of it, especially from her viewpoint in the afterlife. While Susan wasn’t a superstitious person, she dared not risk finding out if Darling could reach her from the other side. Sam and Sue applauded with enthusiasm when Susan informed them that the kitchen was back open for business because Darling would want it that way. Sam chimed in, “We’re going to make a hundred dozen cookies this year, Mom!”

By two in the afternoon on Christmas day, everyone had nervously avoided sitting in the rocking chair, even as a joke. Susan attempted to encourage different people to sit in the rocker. Even her husband’s Aunt Edna refused. Darling’s presence still filled the house. It might never be the same, even though their home was always filled with overflowing conversations, laughter, and the occasional shout.

When Susan’s husband Ed stood by the tree to read 1 Corinthians 13:13, Darling’s favorite, he laughed. “This isn’t a Christmas verse, but it is the one Darling insisted on for twenty years. I see no need to break it.” He recited the passage from memory as everyone in the living room and kitchen stopped to listen. Most had their eyes turned to the empty rocking chair next to the Christmas tree. Although many had endured both rebuke and charm from Darling, most eyes were moist from remembering her.

Susan felt an unseen hand push her toward the rocking chair. Aunt Edna turned from near the coffee table and started to make her way to the chair. Without knowing she was doing so, Susan shouted, “Save that spot for me!” Aunt Edna froze as every head turned to watch Susan walk across the living room and put her hand on the back of the rocking chair. She hesitated and then sat down firmly in the rocking chair.

“Well, what are we waiting for?” She asked. “These gifts aren’t going to hand themselves out, are they?”

In unison, everyone laughed.

Darling was indeed still in the room.

A Son’s Gift Of Christmas

Judy’s eyes opened to see the projector clock on the opposite wall indicating 4:45 a.m. Before going to bed, she set the bedroom alarm for 5:00 a.m. and her automatic coffee pot in the kitchen for 5:15 a.m. Since it was Christmas morning, she needed to complete her to-do list before Jake scrambled out of his pillow fort. They spent at least thirty minutes last night, carefully building his sleeping fort to his precise specifications. He wanted to ensure that Santa wouldn’t find him awake in the dark. After getting Jake to stop chatting and to try to sleep, Judy pulled the presents for Jake from the trunk of her car and tucked them under the tree. It would be an austere Christmas this year. She hoped Jake wouldn’t mind.

Judy succumbed to the warmth of the bed; she pulled the comforter tightly under her neck.

The last year was beyond difficult. Judy’s ex-husband Richard spent the first four months of the year denying he had abused her. When he discovered that Judy’s decision to flee him was going to last, he turned his efforts to the court to take Jake from her. Even Judy’s mom testified against her. For reasons she still didn’t understand, the judge awarded her sole custody and granted her permission to move away. By September, she had a new apartment, a new job, and a new list of fears. Judy and Jake were on their own in every sense of the word. For ten years old, Jake somehow avoided the anguish others kids might have experienced through such a traumatic year. Judy found herself holding her breath tensely, waiting to see Jake act out. He never did.

At 4:50, Judy imagined she could smell coffee. If she overslept the alarm, the coffee always roused her from the bed. Single parents had to use a bit of creativity to keep their lives manageable. Imagining her first cup of coffee, she realized that she needed to pee. She pulled the comforter over her head as if doing so would erase the imaginary scent of coffee from her nose and the need to go to the bathroom. When she got the edge of the comforter tucked behind her head, she heard the soft melodies of “All I Want For Christmas” by Celine Dion. Most people preferred Mariah Carey, but not Judy. Celine was the voice of her angel. Deciding that she wasn’t going to quiet her mind or rest, Judy crawled from her warm bed and walked through the small dark bedroom to the tiny bathroom attached to it. As soon as she sat, she distinctly heard the music volume increase dramatically. Without a doubt, Celine’s voice played in the living room. Judy tried to finish more quickly, which only increased her need to go longer. As most moms discover, there is no such thing as quiet time, even in the bathroom. There’s always a bang on the door or an immediate need to address.

Judy quickly put on her Santa pajama bottoms and walked out into the living room. Inexplicably, the small tree next to the front window was fully lit and twinkling. The stereo next to the small television was on. Celine’s voice streamed from it. Judy walked across the narrow living room to Jake’s room. Opening the door, she went to the pillow fort and peered inside. Jake wasn’t there.

Judy quickly backed out of the room and peeked into the front bathroom. Also empty.

She turned and slid the sliding door to the kitchen open.

Jake sat at the small plain wood table. A cup of coffee sat in front of him. Next to that, a simple red box tied with twine.

“Merry Christmas, Mom!” Jake shouted as he ran over and hugged Judy around the waist. Surprised, Judy stood and rubbed her son’s hair back from his face. After a few seconds, he pulled away and reached over to grab the cup to hand to Judy. “I made this just the way you like it, Mom!”

“When did you learn to make coffee, Jake?” she asked.

“Oh Mom. That’s what YouTube is for! Plus, this is your Christmas!” Jake’s smile was as big as Judy had ever seen it. Though doubtful, Judy sipped the coffee. It was perfect. She laughed, realizing that Jake just volunteered to make coffee for her for the next ten years. “It’s delicious and so much better when someone else makes it!” She winked at him in the way that he loved.

“What are you doing up so early, son? It’s barely five.”

“Mom, I asked Santa to give you a good Christmas. He told me that I should give you a good one. I got you a gift.” Jake reached for the box on the table and pushed it toward Judy.

“How did you manage this, Jake? Do you even have money?” Judy laughed. She pulled the top bow loose to work the lid off the box.

“It was easy. I took out the trash every day for Mr. Johnson and agreed to help the building manager for a few months next year. I got Ken’s mom to get the gift at Target. Ken brought me the surprise to school, and I sneaked it home in my backpack. Simple.” He smiled. Judy knew that it had been anything but simple. Such planning for a ten-year-old was impressive. She was going to act delighted no matter what the box contained. It’s a ritual that Moms do instinctively.

Judy lifted the top off the box. She gasped. Inside the box at the bottom was a single ruby earring. Her eyes welled up as she looked at Jake. He sat, watching her, a smile on his face.

“Mom, do you like it?”

She swallowed hard to avoid crying. “Yes, of course!”

“I know that Dad took your Grandma’s ruby earrings and hid them. I could only afford one this year. I’ll get you the other one next year, I promise.”

Judy abandoned all pretense and started sobbing. She sat down hard on the chair across from Jake. Her coffee sloshed and spilled a little as she did so. Jake came around the table and hugged Judy from the side. She grabbed him and squeezed him hard against her.

“I love it, Jake! I love you.” She fumbled to pick up the single ruby earring and put it into her right earlobe. She smiled at Jake.

“Merry Christmas, Mom!”

As Celine continued to soar in the clouds in the background, Jake and Judy, mom and son, sat at the kitchen table laughing. It was a long time coming. In the living room, beneath the tree, Jake’s presents waited.

Love and Christmas were drowning them both. They swam in it.

*

*

Wherever you are and whoever you are, the season is inside you if you’ll permit it to overwhelm you.

Prank Cards, Even For Xmas

For many, the tradition of holiday cards is a dying custom. I don’t envy people for their interests or habits. It’s not a good recipe for living to feel obligated to follow the old ways. For me, though, there are times when the opportunity to send cards brings out the part of me that lives in a vast world full of billions of souls, each wanting a little bit of spectacle and magic. Oddly, even those who’ve scorned social media are as likely to have given up writing letters or sending a holiday card to friends and family. It’s a dying custom.

It’s hard for me to send a simple card. I have to make it complicated and personal! 

I don’t send out cards in expectation of reciprocity. That, too, is a poor way to live one’s life. There are times when I put in a little bit of effort and then am surprised when I hear nothing in response, though. That’s part of the bittersweetness of sending unsolicited bits of fun and zaniness out in the world. People don’t have the time – or always make it – to let you know they liked it or hated it. Static sometimes fills the air. It’s a gift to be able to tune it out when you put out some creativity in the world. A good response is to keep sending them cards regardless of their interaction. 

A couple of years ago, I created a complex and custom birthday card online and sent it to an acquaintance. I made the card from social media pictures. It was a work of art, if I do say so myself. I used another return address to conceal my identity further. Since the company which printed and mailed my creation sent it, there was no postal marking to identify its origin. My acquaintance was genuinely perplexed and spent DAYS vainly trying to discern who might have created the artwork cards. So great was her interest that she finally posted on her social media page to beg for help figuring out ‘who.’ I was surprised that no one immediately connected the dots to me, given the work’s detail.

In a tradition I don’t always follow or do in the same manner, I send several personalized Christmas cards to people and families that I’ll never meet. In a few cases, I found pictures of LinkedIn, yearbooks from long ago, or social media. I downloaded them, and in some instances, photoshopped them before creating the custom cards that went to each of them. I chose a person at random from a yearbook for one of the lucky recipients I’d never seen before and researched them sufficiently to discover their new life. I also used ancestry to find a distant cousin and pieced together clues to figure out their real identity from the anonymous one used on the ancestry website. Using an inmate website, I found a person’s name and I.D. number and then sent him a glorious card and words of encouragement.

Though it might paint me as a bit of a weirdo, I find it challenging to explain to others how much fun I derive from sending total strangers a holiday card, especially when I personalize each with their pictures.

In each of these cases, I enjoyed each recipient’s imagined scenarios in my head, as they puzzled the personalized card from someone they didn’t know. In some cases, I used fake identities and addresses. In others, I used my real name, which might not necessarily allay concerns. “X” seems more like an accusation in some cases.

Of course, I also sent a few cards to people I do know, without using my real name and address, hoping to give them a bit of yuletide joy as they vainly attempted to figure out who had sent them a card. All those cards were customized and were a pleasure to create. I also sent a few to people using other friends and family members as the sender. I love living in a world wherein it is possible to convince people that someone else sent them a card, no matter how they might deny it.

Likely, I’ll never hear any of the stories that resulted from most of these custom cards. That’s how it works, though. Not knowing is often more rewarding than discovering the mundane answers.

Many people received Xmas cards over the years without knowing the person they thought sent it had nothing to do with it. Also? People don’t always look closely at the pictures. You wouldn’t believe the people and things I’ve edited into images without anyone noticing. 

I can imagine several of the recipients scratching their heads in bewilderment, wondering who, what, when, and where – all without an answer. They may half-expect a repeat this year. Because I used an online address book for most of them, I could go back and send them another card this year. That would get them thinking.

Because much of our modern lives are now redirected by technology, the old ways provide another road to have a bit of fun.

P.S. If you are not familiar with Postable, it’s a great way to have some of the fun without needing to do the actual creation by hand. Postable – Create and Send Custom Cards  You can upload pictures and design custom cards. They’ll also put it in an envelope and mail it for you – using any return address you might dream up. If you want to do Christmas or holiday cards, I highly recommend that you give Postable a try.