Frequent-Flyer Christmas Card

by on April 21st, 2014
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It was Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, 1969, the day when Christmas shoppers hit the highways and byways of the malls in force. Nicole was no exception. Her formidable shopping list in a gloved hand, she was browsing through Hallmark Christmas cards, debating the formidable price of $3.50 on the back of the gorgeous gold and blue Madonna and child fold-out card that shared the ‘good news’ of the Christ child’s birth. She knew Abby, her sister in Reno would love it, and because Abby couldn’t afford the cost of an airline ticket home. It was going to be a blue Christmas in Reno – her first Christmas away from home. With a beleaguered sigh, Nicole dropped the beautiful card in her shopping cart and told herself some luxuries were simply worth the price, and this was one of them.

Nicole wasn’t sorry about her extravagance, when on Christmas Eve, Abby called her long distance, praising the beautiful card that held a place of honor at the top of her card tree because it was the first Christmas card she had received as a newly wed, and because it made her feel connected to home.

Abby couldn’t bear to part with the beautiful card when it came time to put Christmas things away. She found a picture frame for it, and the glitzy card with its message of hope sat on her fireplace mantel throughout that first year of her married life away from home. A year passed and it was time, again to exchange season’s greetings. Abby debated long and hard over an idea that had come to her. She was thinking about what the card had meant to her in the last twelve months, trying to decide if she could follow through with it.

At long last, she finally decided to put the card in an envelope, and mail it back to Nicole. Beneath Nicole’s signature, she added her own name, and the date, Christmas 1970 on it. Inside she tucked a little note: ‘Because Jesus is the reason for the season, and I’m too frugal to throw this gorgeous card away, I’ve gifted it back to you, dear Sis, and hope it brightens your day.’

Every day Abby waited for Nicole to say something about the card she had returned. She waited almost a month in vain. Then on Christmas Eve, Nicole called her and mentioned the card, “I’ve heard of cheap, Abby, but sending a used Christmas card? This was a first.” Nicole was making a joke of it, but Abby was wondering if she didn’t hear a few tears in Nicole’s voice, because Nicole sort of sounded like she was choking up.

“Yeah, well, it wasn’t so much about what a new one would have cost. It was more about throwing away the three dollars and fifty cent you spent on that one,” Abby teased. “I guess I’m too cheap. I just couldn’t do it.” Not another word was said about the card.

But Christmas 1971 rolled around and when Abby opened the Christmas card she had received from Nicole shortly after Black Friday, there was her beloved Madonna and child kindly smiling at her in hues of blue and gold. Nicole had signed it and added Christmas 1972 beneath her 1971 signature, and she had added her own Christmas message. “What can I give you, poor as I am? I’ll share Jesus with you, the Savior, the Lamb.”

As crazy as it might sound, Abby was pretty thrilled to get the Christmas card back. She dug around in storage until she found the old picture frame and ensconced the card like a photo on her fireplace mantle again. It often brought a smile to her lips, and precious thoughts of her sister to her heart as she would admire it in passing.

A tradition had begun that has lasted forty-two years. Forty-two signatures trail down the pages of the beautiful fold-out Christmas card. It’s become a little dog-eared from all the miles it’s traveled, and a couple of tear stains may be evident if you examine it closely, but it wouldn’t be Christmas for Abby and Nicole without the annual departure or arrival of that precious Christmas card with those personal little greetings in it.

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