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Meet Me at the Bonfire

By Esther C. Baird/Tri-Town Transcript columnist
First Published in the Tri-Town Transcript December 6, 2013

I’ll admit I’m the queen of early Christmas crazy, but even I have lines drawn in the decorative cotton snow that I will not cross. Sending out Christmas cards before Thanksgiving is one of them. I think we can all agree that’s just a bit much.

Cue my laid back friend who arrives to things when she’s ready, who enjoys the actual moment she’s in, who prefers to linger with people instead of rushing . . . who sent out her card pre-Turkey. The world was upside down! What was a Type A Christmas maniac like me to do!?

Oh, the holiday card. It undoes me every year. It’s perhaps the only part of Christmas I could do without. For the longest time we didn’t send one, because I knew once we started it was a merry-go-round I could never jump off.

Your kids looking cute. My kids looking cute and sweet. Your shimmered glossy paper stock. My matte extra weighted paper stock. Your festive envelope seal, my custom address label.
Round and round we spin. All that paper. All that flammable adhesive glue. What if we just had a gigantic holiday bonfire instead? The North Shore Festival of the Flaming Cards.

No? Well, think about it.

We began our card journey with a self-staged family shot that Regular Readers may recall I wrote about six years ago.

It went . . . poorly.

After that we used a friend who is a professional. She took magical dreamy shots of our girls looking like they adored each other and were not at all itchy in their dresses. Then we used my father’s hobbyist skills and endured underwear jokes to get great smiles. But, as we spun faster and faster, and needed more and more cards, I couldn’t take the staging and the scheduling and the outfits any more. So I made my own cards from the myriad of snapshots we’d taken during the previous year. But which photos? Summer shots to help us through the snowy months? Shots in Easter best outfits that we clearly wanted to rip off in lieu of sweatpants? Sporty, though obviously unshowered, shots? The options! The choices! Keep spinning! Have you thought any more about the bonfire?

I spend even more time trying to figure out what our card will say. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a writer of the annual family letter. On the rarest of magical occasions those letters contain an interesting update, but mostly they explain that, unbeknownst to me, the families in them are the most amazing people on earth with the most fantastic children who are smart and beautiful and never, ever, whine about snacks.

You say family letter, I say fire kindling!

What I do ponder is the turn of phrase that will communicate that we celebrate Christmas. That we are people of the red and green and Baby Jesus, yet we recognize that some of our friends are not. What two or three words can contain such hopes and fears of all our years? Not to mention the words of personal greetings I write on some: “Miss you!”, “Have fun with the new baby!”, or, “Woof!” (to Blue Ear’s veterinarian).

It’s possible I overthink things. And in the end where do the cards end up? Do not talk to me, oh Pinterest Nation, with your exceedingly creative clothespin wreaths and snow frosted cork boards to hold all your Christmas cards. If I had the time to do that . . . I wouldn’t. We shove our cards in our kitchen window panes and when the heat comes on they blow onto the floor.

And yet I spin on. Our unaddressed 2013 cards just arrived. I’m starring down the barrel of an overdose on Sharpie fumes and envelope glue, and, thanks to my friend, I won’t even be the first card in your box.

I hear Sharpies are combustable almost like small fire crackers. Next year, I’m in if you are.