Say Something

Last year.

Bing Crosby. Merlot. Crackling fire. Extra fine point Sharpies, black. Christmas forever stamps, the ones with the berry wreath. A bowl of chocolate chips nearby, half-finished 80’s jigsaw puzzle just to my right. Sweatpants on, hair up, address list at the ready.

I begin with the highest of intentions to do more. Don’t just sign your name this year, I think, say something. Say something that matters, anything that matters.

It’s 8pm.

Merry Christmas, Bridget. I’m the worst at keeping in touch, so consider this an annual update, the condensed version. Remember when you introduced me to that weird documentary about the small Texas town’s win-a-free-car competition and we laughed for days and days and rewatched it more times than we can count? I found it! They turned it into a Broadway show and re-released the original, and holy moly, it’s just as good as it was the first time we watched it on Linden Street.

Remember when Lia drank a gallon of milk and vomited on the corduroy beanbag?

Ken’s good, Bee’s good, I’m just over here generally over-thinking everything. You know, per usual. I ordered peanut butter pie at the diner last month and it.was.terrible. Nothing like Pie Day Friday in college.

But then again, there’s nothing like college either.

I miss you. I love you.

There. Good. A few more like this.

But soon, it’s 9:30. My left hand is tired, my eyes are getting heavy.

Merry Christmas, Liz!

I’m the worst at keeping in touch.

Remember when Lia drank a gallon of milk and vomited on the beanbag?

Ken’s good, Bee’s good.

I miss you,

10:42pm. Break to rekindle the fire. Just a few more, maybe twenty.

Merry Christmas, Katie!

Ken’s good, Bee’s good.

I miss you,

Ken comes upstairs from the basement. He’s finished his movie; it’s 1:10am. Headed to bed soon? he asks.

I tell him I have a few more, that I’ll be right there, that I’ll be sure the fire’s out before I head back.

Merry Christmas, Lia!

I used to think that, in today’s fast-paced society, a handwritten holiday card was a must. I’d pride myself on gathering addresses, updating the correspondence list, licking the envelope, securing the stamp. I’d send 50, 60 cards each season, all with a smiling family portrait and a scrawled “Merry Christmas! XO!” on the back.

I still send the cards. I still believe in the tradition, still smile when I see a stack of handwritten envelopes in my own mailbox.

But I’m not kidding myself. It’s not the traditional way.

When I first moved to Los Angeles as a 21-year-old just out of college, my girlfriend and I sent long, winding letters about life and love and Melrose Ave.

She still lived in Indiana and I was navigating a new world on the west coast and we’d write paragraphs and paragraphs about nothing at all. I’d write her at work, sometimes spilling a dab of cream cheese or bagel crumbs, drawing a little circle with an arrowed scrawl to the side (–> sorry for the grease, it’s my lunch break!).

Our letters would be, easily, twelve pages long.

They were nothing, they were everything.

I cannot remember the last time I wrote a letter. I write cards now, short little traditional “thinking of you” messages that I shoot off like afterthoughts.

I’ve tricked myself into believing that the card itself makes it special. That the medium will outlive the message.

I no longer think this is true.

This year.

Bing Crosby. Merlot. Crackling fire. Uni jetstream ballpoint, black. Forever stamps. MAKR box. A bowl of chocolate chips nearby, kindling nearby. Sweatshirt on, hair back, address list at the ready.

I begin with the highest of intentions to do more. Don’t just sign your name this year, I think, say something. Say something that matters, anything that matters.

It’s 3pm.

Merry Christmas, Leesa. There’s this girl at the coffee shop I go to that looks a little like you, only she’s more emo. I loved her instantly, and I told her she looks like my friend Leesa, which is of course, terribly uninteresting to her, but terribly interesting to me. She said, Thanks. What else was there for her to say?

Ken’s good, Bee’s good. I finished my book. Remember when you came to visit and I interviewed that protein shake guy over sushi and we slept in the Roosevelt in our clothes, and then I caught a cab to work but forgot deodorant and the I kept emailing you the state of my underarm odor?

That didn’t make it in the book, but it should have. I still have the dress I wore that night. Man, that was a good dress. (And a bad interview.)

My year in review:
-Adoption paperwork.
-Found the best lip salve ever. (It’s nipple balm, but whatever.)
-Wrote a book.
-(Only) three nervous breakdowns.
-OK, three and a half.
-Perfected my scrambled egg technique.

Come home!

I miss you. I love you.

It’s 5pm now. Ken’s making chili and I’m three letters in, and wanna take a family drive to see the lights?

Yes, I say.

There’s always tomorrow.

These things take time.

My Christmas correspondence list is short this year. I chose just 25 of these beauties, and I intend to make each 25 count. So far on my list:

-My 8th grade English teacher
-The old barista in my Los Angeles neighborhood
-My dentist, who always tells the best stories
-My first swim coach
-The security guard at Ken’s first job, the one who let me sneak the tulips home on cloudy days

My friend calls. I got your Christmas card, she says. I totally forgot about the Roosevelt night! Ah, those were the days.

They were.

(They are.)

When I think of keeping in touch, of correspondence, of memory-keeping and memory-sharing and memory-making, I think of how many times I’ve gotten it wrong. How many times have I opted for Merry Christmas when I meant I love you? I miss you? I miss those days? Remember those days?

I’m only six cards in this year, but six is good enough for me.

It’s six more than last year.

It’s six less of the Merry Christmas! variety, and six more of the I’m thinking of you, really and truly type.

I once read that if you can count on both hands the number of people you could call in an emergency, you’re incredibly blessed.

And I think if you can count six people you want to send a long, winding, memory-filled, rambling Christmas letter to?

Doubly so.

p.s. This is an essay for MAKR, who makes the most lovely holiday cards perfect for sending a long, winding, memory-filled, rambling Christmas letters. Thanks for reading, and enjoy 20% off your holiday pack order with code ‘MANKIND‘ now through 1/31/16!

  • Ok, I’m moved to tears reading this! So beautifully said and so perfectly true! What’s funny is a actually create holiday cards and sell them. So I’m inspired and now i will spend more time writing from the heart. Maybe I’ll even fill both sides of the inside of my card! Now all I need is get my bag of m&m’s and get started!

  • that’s the most charming post i’ve read in weeks…merry christmas to you & yours who’re doing well. i love it.

  • I’m the handwritten Christmas card type, too! Sending less this year than sometimes, but still sending some!!

  • My Family had exactly the Same problem, because you want it to ne Personal. We solved it by typing a long letter about everything that happened during the year and we das someone photos and print them out. Eventually we would then add 1 or 2 Personal notes

  • I love this! I’m a sucker for handwritten letters too! My 99 year old grandmother has the most beautiful handwriting ever and I treasure all her letters to me over the years. Six written cards is pretty amazing to me! I barely get one or two before the rest get a scrawled Merry Christmas, miss you, mean it! I feel so unaccomplished with that, but my husband thinks even that is a lot to say. I wish I lived closer to you, we could meet for coffee and, I think, have a lot to say. :)

  • I so get your post. I had some cards made of my artwork. That is inspiring me, a little bit. I’m going to have one of those evenings. Right away.

  • magical ! years ago, when my girl was young, i would write long christmas letters, add her artwork,copy them and send out a bunch … later in my quest for simplicity i started doing postcards with the briefest of yearly review … and sadly the last five years i have sent nothing … i just loved what you wrote here and earlier today was thinking of writing some christmas cards with meaning again … i hope i can make it happen … thanks for the inspiration :)

    • Ahhhh I love the idea of long Christmas letters and artwork! It’s definitely hard to find the time, so I’m in a quality vs quantity state of mind this year, that’s for sure!

  • There is magic in your words here! I do the same thing with my Christmas cards – feeling guilty for not saying enough and mass-producing a production line of repetitive cards. If only there was more time in the day, huh. Going to share! — Amy @

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  • Dear Erin

    Remember that time I stumbled across your blog, and fell in love, never to return? Always to be inspired, and uplifted, and made to feel far less alone in this world of ours?

    Because I sure as heck do ;)

    You’re the best, my dear. It has been magical walking through 2015 with your words for company.

    Much love, Tori

    • Oh Tori, you are so kind – thank you for your continued encouragement! It’s such a pleasure connecting with you here each week. :)

  • Best post I’ve read by anyone in a while. Thank you. I took sending cards competely off my list this year of “to do before December 25”. Last year’s rush to get them out because “people expected them” and it’s what “i do” at the holidays left me exhausted, cranky, and irritated with the postal worker that she didn’t have anymore of the Christmas stamps I wanted in stock. Eek. BUT, after your post, maybe, just maybe, I’ll grab some of those cards you mentioned, find a pen that isn’t about to run out of ink, and write those that have made an imprint on my life rather than to those that are out of “expectation”. So thanks Erin Merry Christmas

    • ah, thank you lauren!!!! i’ve fallen trap to the expectations as well, so it’s good to reset every now and then! :)

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