If it’s Dec. 23 and I’m not sitting at my kitchen table behind a pile of unposted greeting cards, then it’s just not Christmas at my house.

Suffice it to say that I have not mailed my cards yet. What’s more, I have not chosen the card theme, format, font or greeting, nor have I written my Annual Blurb. (I’ve been writing this column, instead.)

Robin Conte is a writer and mother of four who lives in Dunwoody. She can be contacted at robinjm@earthlink.net.

What I have done is manage to corral all six of my family members together in the same spot long enough to take a group selfie, which will serve as the photo for my card this year. This happened last June, because the kids all materialized for a Father’s Day dinner, and I couldn’t let that opportunity pass.

The kids knew it was inevitable, as their main deterrent to coming home is the threat of a family photo.

One year, I found myself in mid-December still lacking a group photo, and I took aim at the family tree-trimming in a last-ditch effort to capture the magic. I badgered the offspring for poses and “candid shots” until one son couldn’t stand it anymore. He took a picture of our namesake ornaments that were hanging on the tree and told me to use that. I did. It worked great.

So for me, The Photo is Challenge A of the card.

Challenge B is Formatting the Photo onto 1,437 different options on Shutterfly or Tiny Prints or Costco until I find just the right fit, or deciding to scrap all that and format it onto a blank piece of paper. Truthfully, I only did the latter once, and five years later I’m still finding drafts of it being used as scratch paper around the house.

Challenge C is The Blurb.

Here, I must provide you with some backstory. While I was smack dab in the middle of my impressionable youth, I overheard my Girl Scout leader make a remark to a friend about holiday greeting cards. She said, “I know what you look like and I know you wish me a merry Christmas, so if you’re going to send me a card, tell me something.” And I’ve been telling people something with my greeting cards ever since.

Challenge D is the Deadline.

Christmas Eve used to be my deadline. Then I started giving myself a grace period, and I stretched the deadline to New Year’s Day. When I still couldn’t meet that deadline, I got very liturgical, put three wise men on my cards, and marked the Epiphany (which arrives mercifully later into January, on the 6th).

I used the Epiphany deadline for a while, until one year I tried following the lead of a friend who sends Valentine’s cards. But without the momentum of the December madness pushing me along, I found myself petering out, like a balloon that slowly wilts into a deflated and droopy state, waiting for someone to poke the final hole and squeeze the rest of the life out of it. Yes, that was my February-deadline self, and I still have a stack of Valentine’s-themed cards from 1996 that never made it to the mailbox.

The greeting card snapshot of snowmen ornaments that Robin’s son took to get out of the dreaded family group photo.

One year I sent Easter greetings, and one year I almost sent Fourth of July greetings, but then I figured that December was going to roll around again soon enough, so I just waited.

But I never let more than two years pass, because I value the sentiment and the correspondence. More than wishing people peace and joy and health and blessings and all the nice things that one can wish for at the conclusion of a year and the commencement of another, the annual greeting card serves to keep our personal connections alive. (I know, I know, there’s always Facebook. But that’s another column.)

So if you’re on my list, I can pretty much assure you that you will not receive a card from me by Dec. 25. But you know what I look like, and you know that I wish you Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

And now I’ve told you something, as well.

Robin Conte

Robin Conte lives with her husband in an empty nest in Dunwoody. To contact her or to buy her new column collection, “The Best of the Nest,” see robinconte.com.

2 replies on “Robin’s Nest: Taking the greeting card challenge”

  1. Ms Conte says and rightly so that greeting cards serve to maintain personal connections. Then, she said: “I know, I know, there is always Facebook.”

    Although Ms Conte is right about greeting cards, she is incorrect about Facebook.
    Facebook is designed to maintain some form of communication. It is not designed to maintain personal connections. That’s an illusion.

    Have we become a society so utterly saturated in technology that we cannot tell the difference between impersonal Internet communications and personal (meaningful) connections?

    How and when did we learn that a photo of Christmas ornaments could take the place of a family photo?
    Stop the world, I want to get off.

  2. I think it’s a rather creative card honestly. If someone sent that to me I’d find it rather clever. I’ve gotten plenty of Christmas cards with tortured looking kids over the years and after awhile they all start to look the same.

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