It may be the most wonderful time of the year, yet every trip I take to the mailbox makes me increasingly anxious. No, no, no, I’m not avoiding bill collectors. It’s Christmas cards that make me nervous.
Don’t misunderstand me. I love receiving Christmas cards. I savor every family photo and update that comes my way. It’s just that each joyful greeting serves as a reminder that in spite of good intentions, no matter what I do I never can get my cards in the mailbox before it’s time to set out the milk and cookies for Santa on December 24. This year promises to be no exception.
I’m as fond of spreading good cheer as the next gal and it wouldn’t be so bad if all I felt compelled to do was buy a big box of assorted commercially manufactured cards, sign ’em and slap computer-generated address labels on the envelopes, but nooooo. Can’t do that. That would be far too easy, not to mention (and I hope I’m not offending anyone here) impersonal.
The truth is, I dug myself into this hole and with each passing year it gets harder and harder to pull myself out of it. Confused? Let me explain.
About 20 years ago I started getting creative. No store-bought cards for the Datocs. No-siree. At first I sent out simple photo cards. You know the kind you order from Wolf Camera with a picture of your kids and the dog wearing matching sweaters. Next I started inserting entertaining year-in-review newsletters, which led to photo collages, which led to graphic timelines, and eventually to one-of-a-kind super-duper-fantastic cards, designed and produced single-handedly by yours-truly.
It’s grown into an annual tradition that consumes more time and cash than I’m willing to admit. I am the proud owner of a vast range of professional photo editing and graphic design applications as well as the world’s fastest, all-in-one, photosmart, two-sided commercial grade printer.
Even with state of the art equipment and technology, it takes a lot of time. A lot of time. Concept development routinely begins in July. By November I’ve got a couple of firm ideas which I dutifully run by the husband and kids for approval. Each year I am met with their blank expressions indicating a general lack of interest in the process. This prompts my annual frustrated fist shaking and idle threat to scrap the whole project which is met by more blank staring from said husband and kids (and dog who always stares at me when I throw tantrums).
It is at this stage that I become more annoyed than I ever have been (except perhaps for the time I went shopping on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and some lady in front of me at the check out counter refused to bag her own groceries…don’t get me started).
Anyway, I stomp around the house thinking… FINE. I’ll pick the one I like best…and Nobody appreciates what I do around here… and suddenly I remember It’s Christmas for heaven’s sake…snap out of it. I recall comments from friends and relatives who receive my cards each year. They think I’m clever and witty and… (sigh) People do appreciate me. Oh all right. I’ll do it. After my sour mood runs it’s course, my husband hops on the band-wagon and together we manage to pull off another terrific card… one even better than last year’s.
Unfortunately, this year there’s a problem. See, I’ve set the bar rather high all these years. It’s not easy being the one who sends out the best-ever Christmas cards year in and year out. People expect the Datoc family Christmas cards to be funny and unique and engaging. In fact, just writing about it makes me want to take a nap.
This year I found myself in quite a predicament. Thanksgiving leftovers were already a distant memory. The yuletide season was breathing down my neck and I still had not started working on our Christmas card. I was forced to admit what I’d been denying since last summer. The wellspring of ideas had run dry. Yep. I was fresh out of clever Christmas card concepts. It was bound to happen after nearly two decades. I had nothing. Nada.
I hated to concede, but I needed help this year and I needed it fast. I was in a tizzy and since Prozac was not an option, I decided to think outside the box. What can I do to stimulate some ideas?
Imagine an assembly line of industrial Christmas elves. One elf signs “Merry Christmas from the Datocs” in swirly elfin penmanship. Another elf stuffs the cards into envelopes. A third elf addresses and stamps the envelopes. Finally the most responsible elf of the bunch drives me to the post office to mail somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 Christmas cards (he’d go by himself, but he’s too short to reach the after hours mail slot).
All of this is completed by Black Friday leaving me with ample time, after a full day of shopping, to roast chestnuts on an open fire whilst Jack Frost nips at my nose and my husband and sons serenade me with yuletide carols, which they sing by the same fire on which I am roasting chestnuts. Ahhhhh…
Okay so maybe we just watch football and maybe harboring elves to secretly assuage my Christmas card burden is ridiculous (Santa would never hire out during the Christmas rush), but my fantasy got me thinking. I’d been so consumed with thoughts of impending writers’ cramp, paper cuts on my tongue, lingering glue after-taste and all the other unpleasantries associated with the mammoth task ahead, I was unable to generate a single creative idea. That’s when it hit me. I’m still creative. I’m just lazy.
Hmmm. Keep thinking outside the box. I enjoy the Christmas e-cards that find their way through cyberspace into my Inbox just as much as I do the paper ones the postman delivers to the mailbox at the end of my driveway, right? So…why not join the 21st century and send a Christmas e-card?
In less time than it takes to say partridge in a pear tree…okay make that four calling birds-three French hens-two turtle doves-and a partridge in a pear tree…I created the first ever one-of-a-kind super-duper-fantastic Datoc family Christmas e-card, designed and produced single-handedly by yours-truly.
You know what they say. Christmas just ain’t Christmas without a card you love…so here’s mine. I hope you enjoy it. Merry Christmas from my family to yours.