Now that we’re back on the North Coast of the country with its extremely long nights surrounding the winter solstice, I’ve rediscovered the sweet melancholy of this time of year.
It’s connected somehow to the collapsing of time that happens as I work my way through the disheveled address book that I use to log the annual cards we send at year’s end. As I work through the alphabet of pages, I see names of people who were very dear for a portion of life’s journey, and now our paths have diverged and I’ve lost their whereabouts.
I stare at the names, wondering if life has treated them well, or vice versa – then move on to the next name on the list. There are the names with a single line through that tells me that they’ve passed on to a place where no cards are delivered. I pause on those names and remember dear faces, and move on once again.
This annual process has become a cherished part of the season of long nights despite the minor hassles entailed. Do we have a decent family photo this year? How can I avoid a schmaltzy annual letter? Are annual letters even a thing in this Facebook immersed world of ours? Where did I put that Zazzle password? And new this year was the emerging aches of – could it be – arthritis in the writing hand.
But I’ve learned over the past 30-some years that when I take a break from the annual process, I feel a sense of loss. It’s comforting to work through that list of names with remembered faces and moments in time. There are the families who were part of our early years as parents; those couples who became traveling friends before children slowed down our wandering; friends from early jobs, childhood, college, and pre-Jacques escapades. Then there are the geographic friendships – great humans in the right place when we needed them, and then one of us moved and everything changed.
The truly precious are those who remain dear despite separations of time, geography, and experience. Those who contain a piece of who we were then and who love us anyway are so important to who we can still become in these next chapters.
So as the calendar turns to the critical, yet comical, chaos of an upcoming election year, we send our best for a 2016 full of health, happiness, and meaningful moments in spite of it all.