In today’s digital age, sending Christmas cards is quickly becoming a thing of the past. With family photos filling our Facebook and Instagram feeds 365 days a year, sending out a physical card at Christmastime can seem a bit superfluous.
My parents began eschewing the ritual of sending out Christmas cards long before it was cool – but instead of replacing them with e-cards or updates on social media, their annual Christmas card was exchanged for a yearly Thanksgiving card. I’m not sure exactly when this tradition began, but I know it was when I was still young. One year, my parents decided to get a jump start on their cards by sending them out a month early, and it worked so well, they’ve been doing it ever since.
The timing of my parents’ annual card is not the only thing distinguishes it from traditional Christmas cards: the content is unique as well. Rather than sending a family photo and newsletter, my dad uses the card as a chance to share a story or memory with his family and friends. The stories vary greatly in their subject matter, but they are always thought-provoking and uplifting.
When I received and read this year’s Thanksgiving card, it quickly became one of my favorites. I liked it so much that I asked my dad if he would mind my sharing it here. I know that Thanksgiving has come and gone, but the sentiments are equally suited to Christmastime. So without further ado, here is the Dix Family’s 2013 Thanksgiving card.
Ever find surprises when going through old files? It happened in our home recently, when a piece of 2nd grade artwork popped out of a dusty box from the attic that instantly took us back in time to the moment we first saw it.
It was back-to-school night at the grade school. You’ve all been to them. You know what to expect. There is a routine to follow. It’s always the same: first you rush to the school after work and hurriedly locate your child’s new classroom. Next you scan the name placards until you identify your child’s desk and quickly inspect it. Then, while waiting for your opportunity to meet the teacher, you cruise the art covered walls of the room trying to find the piece done by your child and hung for this particular occasion. Once found, you commit it to memory so you can pass the oral exam you’ll get from your tyke when you get home. If the teacher’s still not available to exchange brief pleasantries, you might step back and skim the walls for outliers – you know, the few pieces that stand out from the others lining the walls. That’s when you’ll notice the intense slashings done by Angry Boy, the minimalist markings of Slow Learner and the semi-pro, ready-for-framing piece done by Foreign Student, who knows no English but draws like Michelangelo. It’s all part of the drill. You know the routine. In time your turn will come, you’ll spend your time with the teacher, and out you’ll go. You never expect anything special on nights like these. You never expect to be shocked. You never expect to be overcome with emotion. You never expect to have your values challenged. You never expect to learn life lessons from second graders. You never expect to come face-to-face with Christopher.
Yesterday was back-to-school night for Country Hills Elementary in Brea. There, tacked to a wall behind a teacher’s desk, surrounded by colorful examples of 2nd grade skill on display for visiting parents, was a single, previously folded page that impacted us more than any original Dutch Master ever could. Above and below two stick figures were words something like this:
MY DAD DIED ON FRIDAY
I LOVE YOU DAD
LOVE YOU TOO CHRIS
Bravo, Dad. In the limited time you had, you got the point across.
That ran in 1999. What’s happened since? Well, we asked the teacher for the original drawing, Christopher consented, and his artwork came to live at our house. It caused us to strive to follow his Dad’s example to make expressing our love to those around us a priority. And Christopher? We never met him, but know he still lives in Brea, works for AT&T, is getting pretty serious with his girlfriend and is looking for a larger apartment. Like all people who know they’re loved, he’s going to be fine, just a little surprised when strangers call one day soon and offer to return a piece of his childhood art!
And you? You are loved too. That’s why you’re getting this little note, and we want you to do well too. May we suggest you start by having a very, very Happy Thanksgiving!