The year was 1986 and I was in 2nd
grade. It was quite the time for a child in the 1980s. The era of big hair, big
money, the Cold War, the war on drugs. The Oprah Winfrey show had just debuted
and was making waves in households across the nation. MTV was in it’s 5th year
of broadcasting and had well established itself as the voice of the youth. My
young mind was being bombarded with intense images of rock stars with long hair
thrashing around wildly while scantily dressed women were gyrating their hips
in a display of sexual freedom I had yet to understand.
Valentine’s Day at school was always a beacon
of light in the middle of a long dreary winter. Winter break had ended long ago
and spring break seemed so far away it was pointless to get excited about. We
were in the daily doldrums of cold bleak winter weather, battling illness
sweeping through the school, and of course, boring school work. Sheets of
hand-outs and work-packets, or as my teachers called them; dittos. Dittos for
us to complete math problems and practice our perfect cursive handwriting. But
for one day, one day in the middle of the darkness, for at least an hour, we
had Valentine’s Day.
Ok, for starters, you have to know my family is a bit strange. There was a time I thought the things we did were normal, but my wife assured me that “no, normal people don’t do the things you do.” So with that said, I’m going to share a Christmas tradition my brother and I started. But the more I think about it, it’s something that was started well before we were even born.
When we were kids, there was this cassette tape floating around our house. It was a standard blank cassette tape from Radio Shack. Written on the label were the simple words “Soap Opera.” It wasn’t just a soap opera though; it was the Polish Soap Opera. The Polish Soap Opera was a tape my mom, dad, and uncle made when they were in their early 20s, sometime before my parents got married (that’s right, they knew how weird each other were and still got married). It was the story of Stash and Stella who were Polish mushroom pickers. Yes, you read that right. The story was a total of 5 minutes and half of it was fake commercials. It was ridiculous and made no sense to me, but it was pure gold!
We love receiving cards in the mail at Christmas time. Seeing pictures of everyone’s families, the well-wishing notes, and the words of encouragement for the New Year to come. We like it all. We also like creating our own family card each year too. That’s one tradition we kind of fell in to, but cherish. There have been plenty of years when we were too busy traveling, moving, or just down right tired, but we always came through with something.
Aya loves the written word. I think it’s one of her love languages. Cards are important to her. They always have been. She has every card or letter she has received since she was in elementary school. I’m not joking. Moving back and forth between US and Japan, that’s how she stayed in touch with her friends. So for as long as I’ve known her, Christmas cards have always been a big deal for her.
When I was a kid, my dad was into photography. He had a fairly fancy camera, and he even had a dark room where he developed his own photos. There were a few years when he had a big idea for our family Christmas card. This was in the days long before Photoshop and Shutterfly. So all of the editing he did was in the dark room or was just set-up with the camera. I remember thinking these cards were the coolest thing! When Aya and I had kids, those ideas of doing something different were transferred to me. Continue reading “THE ART OF THE CARD”→