I’ve made my own Christmas cards for nearly three decades now, each year choosing a special photograph or a theme as my holiday greeting to family and friends. At the time I began creating personal cards, the only way to do so involved bringing a printed picture to a photo shop and making a selection from a very limited variety of card designs. But just a few years after I began sending photo cards, color photocopies became affordable. Delighted with the new opportunity, that holiday season I had my young daughter draw a picture of our family at Christmas—Mom, Dad, herself and three cats–added a greeting, and had copies made to send out for the holiday.
Not long after that, I bought our first home computer, which came with a wonderful publishing software called Picture It! (which, I must sadly report, has gone the way of the dodo, but it was a fantastic software). From that point on, my holiday cards became more professional, more personal, and involved considerably more effort—sometimes hours of work, in fact. It didn’t matter; I thoroughly enjoyed creating my special greeting cards. I even created a succession of logos for the back of the cards, updating our trademark as family circumstances changed.
But, just like the software, eventually my state-of-the-art Moo Cow computer—fondly named Hal, after the evil genius computer from 2001–became a venerable antique. Nevertheless, I kept the old dinosaur hanging around, solely due to that publishing software. Until Hal went permanently to the blue screen of death, I booted him up once yearly to create my Christmas cards.
In the years since, never having found an inexpensive software with the versatility and functionality of the old Picture It! , I’ve been forced to create my cards using just one side of the standard piece of paper. They don’t please me nearly as much, but I’ve still enjoyed making them. And my family and friends assure me they enjoy the special greeting cards and look forward each year to seeing what I’ve come up with. Some tell me that they even keep each of my cards, while tossing “store bought” ones in the recycle bin at the close of each holiday season.
Yet I have one upsetting memory connected with my personal greeting cards and, each year as I sit down to my annual ritual of creating my special holiday greetings, I recall it. And it still bothers me.
It was back in the old “photo card” era. Someone, knowing my love of all things Christmas, had given me a giant stuffed Santa. Reindeer being unavailable, I’d perched Stuffed Santa on my daughter’s old red rocking horse, posed him by the Christmas tree, and snapped a photo, which I used the following year for my holiday cards.
I thought the cards were cheerful and whimsical—bright greens and reds, Santa and the tree, the silly rocking horse instead of a reindeer. But it seemed not everyone felt that way about my choice, for a month or two after the holiday, as I had dinner with a group of friends, something was said that reminded two of them of my annual card, and they began to ridicule it…right in front of me. Perhaps unthinkingly, or just uncaringly, they made mocking remarks to each other about the greeting card as I sat there, listening and slightly humiliated.
I said nothing; what was there to say? They didn’t appreciate my creative effort. That was their privilege. But was there any need, I asked myself silently, for them to have humbled me in front of our other friends by scornful remarks?
Gauguin is said to have wept over disparagement of his paintings by art critics who themselves couldn’t have painted a cow barn. And while I hardly compared myself to a great artist, my little yearly creative expression was satisfying, and brought me joy each holiday season…and I felt like crying to hear it belittled.
I might have let that unpleasant experience put me off creating my holiday cards, but I chose not to. I’ve continued to create greeting cards, as I said, for decades. And each year as I sit down at my computer and await the magic of inspiration to strike, I recall the casual cruelty of two former friends. Then I smile and remind myself that the spirit of the season—true loving kindness—should continue not just until the last greeting card is tossed out with the wrapping paper, but throughout the year.