Sunday, January 10, 2016


Longtime readers may remember that I had in my possession a collection of Christmas cards that my dad received in 1946.

“Had?” you ask. “Past tense?”
Unfortunately, yes. This is the first I’ve written about the loss of these cards, which happened about five years ago.

Why my dad kept those cards, I don’t know. I had toyed with tossing them for years. About 1990, an antique dealer told me they had no value but suggested that since they had been saved for 45 years, I might just as well continue to save them. I did, and twenty years later, as I took more interest in mid-century ephemera, I finally saw them as wonderful. I carried them from the farmhouse to town so that I could scan them. I then posted the images on this blog and have continued to draw from that folder to illustrate holiday posts.

After Christmas, I put the two boxes of cards in a crate of items to go back to the farm. The crate was in the way in the house, so I took it to the garage and set it near the pick-up, which is also where we keep the recycling.

“Bad idea to leave it here,” the inner voice said, but it was cold and I was in a hurry. I left it there -- and forgot all about it.

A week later Mike announced he had loaded the recycling and was heading out to the bins. I had a vague feeling that I should be concerned about something. “Go look at the stuff,” said the inner voice, but I ignored it. After all, Mike knows recycling when he sees it, right?

Some days afterward, I saw that the crate designated for the farm was empty and knew that the contents had gone to recycling. At first I couldn’t remember what all had been in it, but eventually I thought about the cards. I was heartsick – and angry. Discussion ensued, but I was angriest with myself. I had been careless about preserving something I treasured and had then failed to follow my intuition.

I know. In the scheme of things this was a small loss, especially when I nearly tossed them years ago. It took a while for me to see that those particular cards were special only because it was fun to see familiar names and the nice messages they wrote to my dad, but the scanned images, used over and over, were becoming stale. So, I decided if I enjoy sharing these old-fashioned images as part of my Christmas, why not buy some? Vintage cards can be found on Etsy, for instance. I’ve already made a start to expand my collection.

“Things happen, Mom,” said son Clint. (The cards were tossed.)
“Stuff’s out there,” said daughter Hallie. (You can find most anything online.) KW

[The photos here were taken at the farm during our holiday stay.]


Chris said...

Whenever something like this happens I always feel like a part of myself, or part of someone I love has gone, but then I have to tell myself it's not true. It's stuff, no matter how treasured. I still feel bad, at least for a while, but eventually I get over it, as you seem to be doing. I'm sorry though.

Mike said...

I am truly sorry. I don't even remember our discussing it afterwards. I guess I didn't get the picture.

Kathy said...

Well, Mike, you said you were sorry at the time, but it doesn't matter because my actions set you up. I foresaw what might happen and I didn't act. And really, how many people save Christmas cards for years on end? I sat with my parents year after year while they opened hundreds of Christmas cards. We discussed how pretty they were. We read the printed sentiment and any personal messages. After Christmas, we tossed all but a few that we saved for package tags or projects. We considered them a thing of the moment -- ephemera -- not appreciating what they might mean in 50 years as the tradition of sending Christmas cards appears to wane. We didn't realize we were in the heyday of Christmas cards -- that this tradition might change.

And Chris, I agree that we have to put these things in perspective. Loss seems to be part of the human experience. But, in the end, we don't take anything with us, except maybe strength of character we have developed through experience.