Remember Christmas cards?
Here is Don, writing to me December 12, 1958, sharing his plans for a card.
"Have been thinking of having some Christmas cards made sometime. I would like to have maybe a Sunburst wagon wheel laying against a fence in the snow, or else have a barn in the background and then have all sorts of old wagons just outside with the snow quite deep and covering most everything. Would be a lot of work and all but would be interesting. By gollys, just thought since I have the barn and wagons I guess that I could take a picture of my own stuff and use cotton to create the snow????"
I love his imagined images.
Oh, such simpler times they were, and I suppose each generation ends up saying essentially the same thing. I'd almost be happy to give up my PC and the lush research-communication benefits to get back some of the things we've lost, like a telegram guy knocking on your door, one telephone in only one room in the house. The afternoon paper landing out there on the grass, its headlines bearing an urgency. Three TV channels, so much easier. Playing with kids outside on summer evenings. I guess now, they face book in the dark. How pitifully remote.
One of the best things back then was waiting each day in December for the postman to arrive with another stack of cards for our mail box. Sometimes, he'd make two deliveries! The word "Christmas" was not yet fraught with political hysteria.
How I miss getting lots of cards in the mail, most of them back then addressed to our family. The envelopes. The colors inside. Snowy scenes of sleighs and brick houses, their windows aglow with sparking lights around tinseled trees. The warm greetings. The valued handwriting of friends and family.
I still like to send them, but only to those from whom, the previous season, I'd received one as well. Otherwise, I feel part of an irrelevant tradition nearly as quaint as vaudeville. I keep a list; it has been narrowing down over the years.
When I get an e-card from somebody, I am just as apt to delete it. So cold. So anonymous. So mass produced; how easy to add my name to your list.
A handwritten card connects one soul to another. Shows the effort taken to reach out.
I don't know how Don's card turned out that year. Here is a card of myself, which I sent out several years before. Taken of me at the Redwood Empire Roller Palace in Santa Rosa. What perfect penmanship, I am so proud looking back! I think I peaked in my 12th year, and then I go so lost, tangled up in scribbling out words, sentences, revisions upon revisions, that I lost my hand.
Many years later, as we faced the last year of the old millennium, I sent out a photo of my amusement park in the works, to the most people who would ever receive a card from me, about 60. The name of my park is what inspired me to send it.
A Century of Thrills ... May '99 Be Your Best Yet
The card came with the above greeting. The sepia photo shows my model midway so young then, with only the Big Dipper roller coaster, Thimble Theatre fun house (based on the one rotting away in a back shed at Baraboo), and The Whip. In seasons to come, I would add the Tilt-A-Whirl, Ferris Wheel, Swings and, now in the works, Laugh in the Dark.