For several years, a writer I know has written and mailed a Christmas poem to her friends and loved ones, although there have been winters when her yuletide verse doesn’t arrive until February. She’s sometimes too busy during the holidays to compose and mail out her Christmas card before the big day arrives.
I don’t mind getting a Christmas message near Valentine’s Day. It’s a nice bit of cheer in the gray, blank days between Christmas and Carnival — and a useful reminder of my own yuletide good intentions that went unfulfilled.
All of this came to mind earlier this month when we drove our son back to the boarding school some three hours away where he attends high school. After a restful Christmas and New Year’s, we were all feeling a little gloomy about returning to the routines of the office and classroom.
As we opened his dorm room, he noticed on his desk a special campus Christmas card that he was supposed to mail to his grandmother. Would it be too late to drop it in the mail, even though a new year had arrived, and most of us had tucked the holidays away?
As I told my son, grandparents always love to hear from their grandchildren on any day of the year. His grandmother would gladly welcome a Christmas card from him, even if it were the Fourth of July.
On the long drive home, I thought of the things on my holiday to-do list back home that remained undone. After decorating our tree last year, each member of the household gathered under the lights with pen and paper. On one side, we made a list of what we wanted to get for Christmas. On the other side, we privately pledged what we planned to give others during the season. As I mentioned to my young nephew, who was sharing the evening with us, our giving list didn’t need to include expensive presents. A gift could be something as simple as a hug for someone who really needed one, a helping hand around the house, a homemade card with a message of love.
On my own list, I promised myself, among other things, that I would check on an elderly widower next door, bring him some homemade cookies, and take some time to visit.
The holidays pointed my attention elsewhere, and I never got around to that visit, as I was reminded when I rediscovered my giving list among the ornaments we put away this month.
But my neighbor needs me just as much now as at Christmas, maybe even more.
The bonds that connect us know no season. We’ve spent several New Year’s Eves with a couple who are dear to us, but this New Year’s found us apart. Even so, they hosted us at a Twelfth Night party for folks they hadn’t seen during yuletide.
With that in mind, I’m trying to embrace the unfinished business of Christmas. In the world of good intentions, as we all know, late is better than never.
Follow Danny Heitman on Twitter, @Danny_Heitman.