A lifetime's worth of joy, and a touch of sadness, is in the cards

November 30, 1993|By Elise T. Chisolm

I decided to start addressing my Christmas cards now, probably because a friend said, "I'm 89, so I address my cards early on. But I wait closer to the holiday to see if I make it, and then I bare my soul inside the card with notes and greetings."

Not a bad idea, so I got out my address book. Yuk, my address book is a mess. I need a new one.

But I will never get one, as there are too many rewrites I'd have to make and too many memories I might lose.

An address book is a recorded history when you are my age. Mostly it contains the names of people you like or love who have been in there for years; people with whom you want to keep up.

The hieroglyphics of my address book would puzzle a Greek scholar. But the tiny notations in the margins and next to the names are a testimony to relationships that now are woven into our family's lives.

An address book is sacred. I still have my mother's, and she's been dead 31 years. I have very few things left of hers, but her address book is full of her old friends, also long gone.

So when I get homesick for her I get out the small book, which is now yellow with age, and I page through it, remembering. And this recalls for me her busy and worthwhile life.

My address book is a kind of puzzle, too, because as I leaf through today I don't know who has gone where, or why.

Here are the T's. I have more people under T than any other letter. I ran out of space and went into the U's. And, oh, the S's are very full, too. Believe it or not, we have two friends in the Z's.

For me, perusing this small book, with its faded green cover and gold-edged leaves, makes me feel a trifle sad. Memories flow as I look at the blurry-inky names and addresses.

Here are a few lines drawn through some of the addresses; they've moved and forgot to send their new addresses -- or, much more painful, both husband and wife are dead.

I turn a page in the S's. Four S people have died since last year -- and the Shaws are very ill. Will they be there when my card arrives at their house in the hills of Montana?

I can't make a line through some addresses, though. Not yet. There are pictures that dance in my head, of good times with friends, from our Navy days to our traveling days. And even though I have not heard from them in 45 years, I can't black them out. I want to will them back into our lives, and troll the corners of my mind when we were young together. So I leave well enough alone.

Even if you are but 40 years old, there are many changes in your address book, because Americans move a lot, and even young and middle-aged people are intimate with illness and death.

But in some places, like under the B's, I take heart. Most of the B's seem to be doing well, health-wise.

And look here: some new births, new marriages and fresh notations.

A granddaughter and her brand new husband are now listed here, reminding me of how much I love her. This will be their first Christmas card from me with their married names on the envelope. I pause to recap their wedding.

But before I get awash in tears of sadness or joy from the memories in my book of addresses, I decide to quit. I'm not in the mood yet. After all, I just finished Thanksgiving dinner. The partridge is not in the pear tree, or something like that.

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