Christmas Cards worth Keeping

by Henry L. on November 8, 2007

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The other day I was busily running around the house doing the “honey-do’s.” I’m not sure if that expression is sailor talk? I’ve no idea where it came from other than all of my friends who are sailors call them that. A Honey-do is the around the house chore, often completed on the weekend at the expense of some other activity with friends. Why’s it called a “Honey-do”? Because the person asking for the things done is normally “Honey” and when speaking to you they are saying “Honey do this, Honey do that, Honey are you done yet? When you are done, Honey, can you do this over here!?” I digress, this post was not supposed to be about Honey do’s, but rather what happened to me the other day while doing things for honey around the house. I had a surprisingly unexpected and reflective moment.

By late afternoon, I had achieved quite a few things. I’d thrown out innumerable children’s toys that were missing pieces. I’d picked up clothes strewn all over the house. I’d stuffed the summer things from the attic into the basement storage closet, and I found myself approaching seeming completion of the Honey-do list, which by the way is impossible. Think asymptote…look it up if you don’t know the definition. It’s almost as obscure as the word fungible.

Anyhow, seriously my last trip to the attic, avoiding successful completion of the honey-do’s, I wandered over to another area of the attic and started cleaning up random things. I had found an old file box. It was white cardboard with black ends and a little string that wraps around to keep the box shut. The top of the box was dusty and slightly discolored with age. I recognized the box as something I had cleaned out of my Mom’s home years ago. As I unwrapped the string and opened the box I remembered what it was…this box represented the very last “thing” that I possessed containing items from my deceased father. Sadly, he died a painful and slow death on September 21, 1985. I was barely a young man and it was a very difficult time.

So here I was, just more than 22 years later in my attic sitting on the floor in front of a file box with the last few things from my deceased dad. I opened the box to see what I had once only barely glanced at. The file box contained papers. It was only about one third full. I had never done anything before except just glanced inside. I really had never wanted the torture of revisiting his death and I think I feared that there might be something in the box that would only open more questions than provide answers. Whatever was in that box on those papers that my father had kept wouldn’t bring him back. I wasn’t even sure they were papers he had kept. For all I knew they were random papers lying about gathered and thrown into a box.

I reached in and rummaged around. There were mostly 8½” x 11″ business stationery-type documents…a lot of my Dad’s work stuff. Only really now as I write this do I fully realize that this box contains items cleaned from my father’s desk, from his “junk/memento” drawer. I have one of those too, something I guess in common with the man now dead for more than 1/2 of my life and really all of my adult life. There were letters, memos, faded pictures and press clippings. Things my father was proud of. As I thumbed the papers deciding what to read first, I found a small collection of envelopes. I chose one as the first item to read from this long avoided box of mystery. I pulled from the envelope a small piece of lined paper that was wrapped around a greeting card. I was surprised and smiled slightly, I think. A greeting card…I hadn’t expected it. The envelope wasn’t a shape that I expected to contain a card and it was hiding within the lined paper. The card was from my grandmother to my father. It was a Christmas card. “Merry Christmas my dear son” it read. I paused, staring into the attic rafters for some time just thinking. I turned the envelope over to look at the front. It was postmarked December 16, 1978. I thought, my Dad kept this, a simple Christmas card. It really meant something to him I dreamily pondered.

I went on to find a dozen or so greeting cards. They were all Birthday cards and Christmas cards, mostly from my grandmother to my Dad. I don’t know how long I was there just sitting in the attic thinking, skimming through papers, photographs and the cherished greeting cards. Soon though, it did occur me to get back to the chores. Company was coming for dinner and I needed to have my business taken care of before they arrived. I closed the box up and left it in the middle of the floor. Our company came and we had a nice time.

The next day, before heading to the office, I made my way up to the attic with a permanent black marker and I wrote on that box “Under no circumstances should this box ever be thrown out!” I will head back up there someday to peruse and read some more. But for now, those dusty old personal Christmas cards my Dad kept are just more of the things I keep for sentimental reasons, my last connection to someone I barely know but miss dearly.

Sadly I find myself here 22 years later, on a plane to Las Vegas, tearfully typing.

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