FEEL GOOD FRIDAY: A Christmas Card

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by Dave Markwell

I love going to the mailbox this time of year. Normally, I am shamelessly indifferent about receiving mail. Bills and junk mail have lost their allure for me. In fact, I usually outsource this duty to my eight year old daughter who still enjoys the little surprises hidden in our black box. As such, she can have this job…except during the holiday season. I love getting Christmas cards. I love seeing old friends growing older. I love seeing their kids, whom I don’t see often enough, getting bigger and growing up, too. I love creative “photo shop” efforts and solemn family poses. I love pictures of my friends and family standing in the snow or by the beach with their smiles and dogs.

While I love receiving each and every computer-generated or hand-written Christmas card, I am shamefully neglectful in sending them. Every year, I say it will be different next year. I will get my family together and shape a perfect card. It will be funny and resonant and important. I will send this masterpiece to all the people I care about and they will really understand how much they mean to me. Unfortunately, also every year, I don’t do this. My good intentions have paved a nice, sturdy, four-laner heading straight south. My wife gets mad at me. My kids get mad at me. And likely some of my friends who send the cool cards wonder, “WTF, Markwell”. I’m sure these people are as interested in seeing my kids and dogs as I am in seeing theirs. They would probably enjoy a card from me. Well, this is my failure and mine alone.

Through the years, my wife has suggested some decent cards to send. I vetoed them, because they were not awesome enough. I have high expectations for my Christmas cards and instead of sending something less-than-spectacular, I send nothing. I use this as my lousy excuse every year and every year my wife shakes her head and says, “You are lame.” I cannot argue with her, I kind of am. This is my curse, lameness.

Like every thing else in life, technology has changed even Christmas cards and I enjoy “e-cards” very much, too. Dancing heads make me smile. My friends’ joyful faces planted on an animated reindeer shaking its rear end, makes me happy. While I am critical about what I send…or rather don’t send…I am not picky about what I get. I do not critique other’s cards. I love them all and though it was not “technically” a Christmas card, couple of days ago, I received a fantastic note in my “inbox” that was as meaningful as any card I have received in recent memory. This note was certainly inspired by the spirit of this season.

Twenty years ago this week, my buddy, JK, was commissioned as a naval officer at a small ceremony in Moscow, Idaho. I was home for break from college at the time but, to support my pal, I loaded a compromised collection of jokers into my Dad’s jeep and made the 300 mile trek across the state to witness JK’s milestone. He was to become a Navy aviator and as a long-time friend, his milestone was ours, too. In his recent e-mail, he expressed appreciation for our efforts so many years ago and attached a photo of us taken at the grand event. We were all skinnier and had more hair. Some of us had A LOT more hair. (You know who you are.) It was a great moment for all of us.

In his note, JK reminded me of my regular closing to our phone conversations during this time. I always ended our chats with “Don’t crash.” As morbid as this may sound, at the time, and maybe still, it was important for me to say this. Understanding that military service is, by nature, dangerous, I wanted him to be careful and in some slightly gruesome way understand that he was important to me. He always replied that he would “try not to”. This was strangely comforting to me and, at the close of his note this week, JK said he is still trying not to crash…and I was still comforted.

While I have rarely subscribed to conventional forms of expression, I do possess a deep understanding that life is always short, and in some sad instances, the sands’ ceaseless trek through our hour glass will shatter the bottom with its pace.

With this in mind, very few people in my life are completely unaware of my feelings about them. And even if they don’t get a Christmas card from me this year, (which they won’t) they are my what I treasure most and they can all rest assured that NEXT YEAR will be THE year for the most epic card ever!! It will sing and pull heartstrings and inspire. They will feel the piece of my heart that beats for them. My art will speak everything that I feel and sometimes don’t say. Next year, for sure, they will all know, with certainty, how much I don’t want them to crash.

For this year, I still wish for EVERYONE: An abundance of abundance and a lack of lack. A smile and a song. Peace and health and hope and love for this season and all seasons. Merry Christmas to ALL!!!

[EDITOR’S NOTE:”Feel Good Friday” is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, who extols to all neighbors: “Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!” Also, you can “friend” Dave on Facebook here. Or work out with him at his new exercise company Waterland CrossFit!]

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