Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Old acquaintance be forgot?

In amongst the mobile ringtones and the ping of my computer, there is a new sound in our house: the shuffle of a letterbox opening and the plippety-plop of many envelopes falling to the floor. 

Where once I might have left the bank statements languishing on the doormat for days, now I pounce upon the Christmas cards with relish. There is something satisfying about those handwritten envelopes and the promise of what lies within: news, photos and tidbits about a life on the other side of the world.

Christmas is many things, but in my mind it has become a time to consolidate friendships. Facebook does a good job of tending the outer circle, but Christmas cards can reach beyond that network to aunts and uncles, childhood chums and even old work colleagues. The sort of people you rarely see anymore, but still like to hear from.


Christmas cards on display
Messages from auld acquaintance
The memories I share with these acquaintances make up the patchwork of my past. Our interaction is proof of another self that I inhabited years ago - now evolved but not quite shed. Each snippet of news also reminds me of how life plods on outside my narrow sphere - children grow up, marriages are made and broken, loved ones pass away. 

Robert Burns expressed something of this in his poem about remembering long-standing friendships. As one year ends and another begins, it has become a tradition to take stock of the communities that surround us.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And auld lang syne! 

In this age of efficiency, Christmas cards have also managed to outlast the grasping tendrils of technology. The joy of slow communication has seen a resurgence recently, and aside from a few typed newsletters, cards still bear a written hand and travel the old-fashioned way. Admittedly they are arduous to write, but cards received bring a tangible token of friendship onto our thresholds.




Emma Clark Lam is the author of A Sister for Margot