Posts Tagged ‘Gift Wrapping’

I keep a box of old Christmas cards. Every year, like most folks, I display Christmas cards as they come in. Unlike most, however, I do not discard them after the season is over, but add them to my collection.

Like most people, when I was a child, we would go to my grandparents’ house on Christmas night for supper with aunts, uncles, and cousins, and there would be presents for all. Unlike most people, however, Grandma Masters did not label her gifts with store-bought stickers. She used the pictures from old Christmas cards. She might wrap a package in paper with pictures of the three wise men, then decorate it with a card showing a manger scene, and a ribbon.    

When I became an adult and established my own home, like most people I began to send and receive Christmas cards. That’s when I continued my grandmother’s tradition of labeling gifts with last year’s cards. I use the front face and usually discard the rest of the card unless it has a smaller picture, as some do, that I can use on a small gift. In any particular year, I may not use all my old cards, so they will collect in a box. Some cards get recycled if the gift was opened at my house and the card not spoiled. I try to coordinate the card with the wrapping paper and give, especially for the children, one that would appeal to the recipient. A card may be a clue as to the gift inside. A box containing a doll might have a card showing a little girl holding a doll. It’s handy to have lots of cards to choose from, and every year my collection grows. Some years I have to graduate to a larger box.

My Christmas card collection has yielded an unforeseen delight. It has become a time capsule, going back many years. As I dig to the bottom of the box, it’s like an archeological excavation, refreshing long forgotten memories. Most senders list their children, and I have a record, in reverse order, of the changes in their families. Children who have grown, moved out, and are no longer listed on recent cards will appear in earlier cards. Their names disappear again in cards sent before they were born. Some senders named my children individually and that list has also grown and shrunk over time, as some of my adult children have moved out, and in, and out again.

Here are cards from nieces and nephews before they had children. Afterwards, they may be too busy to send cards. I have a record of my former boss’ daughter growing up, in the photo cards he gave out every year. Since those are not suitable for labeling gifts, they collect in my box. Here is a card from a family I cannot recall. Perhaps one day something will nudge my memory. There is one signed “your paper carrier” with only her first name. Here’s one from my daughter-in-law before she married my son.

 Some people faithfully send cards every year and some are sporadic. Some I have only a card or two from, and some, like one of my brothers, never, although I will send him one. One couple faithfully sent cards for seven years after they moved away, then there was silence. I never found out why.

Like an archeological record, the collection is incomplete. Some cards no longer exist as they have been used and discarded, and many lack the signature page, so their origin is forgotten. Here is one I will never use, from a dear friend who has passed away. Indeed, the deeper I dig, the more poignant they become. One card my parents also signed “Cookie Grandma”, in the last year of her life after my grandfather had passed. Another is signed only “Grandpa Masters” after Grandma Masters was no longer with us. There is one whose picture page had been used long ago and only the message page remains. I will keep this one forever as it is signed, “All our love, Grandma and Grandpa Masters”. It was probably the last I received from them before Grandma died. 

Some of my relatives have sent home made cards so special that although I may use them to label a gift, I will not throw them away even if they become wrinkled or torn. Deep in the box are cards my own children made when they were small. Scattered throughout the box are annual letters sent with or in lieu of cards. Someday I will go back and read them.

What will happen to my box of cards after I am no longer able to enjoy it? Hopefully, before that time comes, I will put them into a scrapbook, making a history for succeeding generations. In the meantime, I will continue to dig through the box every Christmas, looking for just the right card for a particular gift, being reminded of the past, and surprised by new discoveries.

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