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« Books | Home | Come Sunshine, come s… »

About Christmas cards, friendship, and a wonderful bus trip

Wednesday 30 December 2009 The mailmen had a difficult time right before Christmas with mountains of snow in the streets and on the sidewalks. Nevertheless, “our” mailman still delivered loads of Christmas cards every day from all parts of the country, but also from Sweden, Greece, France and, of course, from overseas, because our correspondence friends from Thailand and America sent beautiful Christmas cards as well.

Most with Bible quotes, since the detainees get their Christmas cards from churches, so even the Islamic pen pals sent Christian cards, but that makes no difference; it’s the thought that counts, right? One of the most unusual cards was from Jack, one of the pen friends from America. Handmade, without Bible quote, as Jack has converted to Buddhism. Most likely, this will be the last Christmas card I’ll receive from him, because, if the state has its way, he will be executed within months; I heard that it might be the beginning of December. To send him a “Happy New Year” card after that wouldn’t be right so I decided on a card with a snowy landscape on it and, besides a personal message, I wrote a Buddhist text: “Wherever I go, I’m going home”. Jack likely will be going home, we just don’t know exactly when.

All those tens of Christmas cards are displayed on top of the wall unit in the living room, hanging on the wall, adhered to Christmas decorations between the sliding doors, and attached to grandma’s knitted Santa, especially made to hold Christmas cards. I am very happy with all those good wishes! On second Christmas Day (there are two of most high holy days in the Netherlands) the kids came to visit and they were surprised to see so many cards. How did we get that great a number of them? Simple: We send out many ourselves as well because we think it’s important to let those we don’t see very often know that we haven’t forgotten them and that we wish them a good year. Most family members, friends, and acquaintances also honor this tradition so, by way of the Christmas cards, we still keep in contact with one another at the end of each year. I cherish these cards or, rather, the thought behind them. Someone wrote that card, addressed it to us, and thus thought of us, wishing us the very best in the coming year.

We did receive some comments on the card we sent out this year. The past several years, we always sent homemade Christmas cards with small pictures of the cats and of us, but not this year, there was no time to get it done. From various sides we got comments and expressions of surprise. Sometimes though, traditions must be broken, even if it’s not pleasant. If other activities are cut short because of a homemade card, well, then for once there will be no homemade Christmas card with little pictures. I was talking about that with an acquaintance. She didn’t care whether or not there were pictures printed on the card, she was happy with every card she received. She herself also likes to send cards and always does so early in the season, but she never gets that many in return because many people do not send cards to those they hardly ever see. Still, my acquaintance wouldn’t easily break the Christmas card tradition. She enjoys just going to the store to choose the cards. So every year she faithfully sends cards to people who hardly know her anymore and who don’t think for a second how happy they could make her sending a card in return. But this woman truly is an artist of life. It never bothers her why one would not send her a card back. Apparently, she thinks that many people no longer own a true address book and that these days Christmas wishes are mostly extended digitally or via Hyves or Facebook. Angry? Miffed? Not her! And “defriending”, the word of the year 2009, is not part of her vocabulary, I think, although for many there hardly needs to be a reason anymore to defriend someone. Friendship is fragile. Already, not feeling quite yourself and, therefore, not being in your usual good mood can be enough for a diminished contact or even an ending of a friendship, and one can ask oneself forever after why exactly it fell apart. Miscommunication, assertive action one isn’t used to or won’t accept, over tiredness, a difficult period one doesn’t want to discuss, so much can go wrong with friendships and family ties. And not just in the circle of family and friends. Browsing the various Internet forums sometimes makes me wonder why the third world war hasn’t broken out yet. What nastiness can be inside people! However, these types of things don’t burden my ever good-humored acquaintance. First of all, she doesn’t have Internet, and secondly, she takes everyone the way he or she is. She accepts that we all have a busy life and she is happy with every acquaintance or family member who does take the time for her.

Another acquaintance made a good comparison when I talked to her about “defriending”: She compared life to a bus trip. Regularly, friends board your bus of life and travel with you for some time. Some disembark already after a short period, while others accompany you longer but they, too, can leave. Perhaps board again after some time so you travel along once more. However, the most important thing is that you yourself enjoy the beautiful bus trip and that should not solely depend on those travel companions. To a large extent, you determine the route of the bus as well, although you don’t always have full control over it. Sometimes, the bus drives through a beautiful landscape, but sometimes through rough and difficult to pass areas. I thought this a good comparison; a bus trip through life and the significance of the passengers who travel with you at times. All passengers are important, no matter how short or long they accompany you. If they had not been of importance to your trip they would not have boarded.

I wish you a beautiful bus trip in 2010, with many friendly and fascinating companions, and a route through a beautiful, healthy area with much warmth and happiness.

Text: Dini Commandeur, Translation: Maria O’Neill

December 30, 2009


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