Sunday Scribblings – Tradition


It started with a just-married RN working the night shift at a hospital in the DC area.  Doodles became an idea for Christmas cards one year.  And one year became fifty years of a hand-made Christmas cards tradition.


12-06-08_Cards01.jpg picture by pemerytx


My parents, incorporated.  Approximately 150 Christmas cards went out every year for the majority of years.  Now it’s something like 85 or so. 


It started as a tedious process of tracing the design outline on each and every card with a black Flair pen.  Splashes of wide-tip marker color were added next, and then the greeting inside the cards was penned with Flairs.


Simple doodles evolved to more intricate card designs over the years.  Tracing evolved to outlining one card and photocopying it.  Then I was brought in to do the outline on computer and to fill any object intended to be completely black, like the black in high-stepping dancers card directly below.


12-06-08_Cards02.jpg picture by pemerytx


The same special card stock that’s been used from day one is still used, 4” x 10” strips cut so they’re tidily foldable to 4” x 5”.  And all the rest of the individual touches—the marker splashes and greetings—are still done by hand.


Growing up, I remember this Christmas card-making tradition as being a tremendously time-consuming affair that had to somehow be worked around the myriad school, church and musical events we were involved with.  It wasn’t uncommon to be stressing over the cards deep into December.


Apparently, this was the deal even when I wasn’t around yet.  My mom remembers one push to complete the last few cards still in progress on Christmas Eve.  This would be the infamous stick-deer pictured in the first photo at the top of this post.  From what I hear, these deer exemplified the case of looking simple, being miserable.  Their little red bow-ties were the hold-up, ironically being individually cut from a roll of shiny red tape. 


The crazy things we do for love, the love here being about allowing a tradition as lovely as Christmas to be the reason for succumbing to the wanted, needed boundaries of one’s own tradition, a tradition of exercising a desire and a skill and to offer the result of those two things up for whatever it’s worth.  And like any worthy effort, if you feel your mental and physical resources maxing out, that is your sign and your reward.


12-06-08_Cards03.jpg picture by pemerytx





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Click here for more on prompt “#140 – Tradition” from other Sunday Scribblings participants.

10 responses to “Sunday Scribblings – Tradition

  1. Hi Miss A,
    No link from ss to here, just an endless ss loop.
    I picture, imagine, so much in the interaction of the process. Doing something together, again and again is really tradition, isn’t it? The result is a culmination of joint effort and creativity. Were there fights? frustrations? feelings of love? duty? hate? resignation? The tradition drove itself at some point, continuing without your presence. That must be what real traditions do? My family says about traditions, “got that over with’. Hmmm, that is a tradition too, huh?

  2. You make the harried, self-indulgent, obligatory traditions of Christmas sound like fun, and meaningful, and good.

  3. Sweetness, DOM. I love the clearsweet Billy Stewart shoobop / yin yang synthesis of your final paragraph. Thanks for all the lovely pix. The goose is getting fat…Stay warm and cozy and limpid up there, girl.

  4. Love does put us over the top, and babies who will neither sleep through the night nor take naps in the afternoon depend for their survival on that small fact. Put love together with beauty, though, and you’ve got a potent combination — better even than a Chimayo cocktail — that will carry you through 50 years of the kind of making you’ve posted here. Gorgeous cards, and the sweetest bit of story-telling to go along with them — thanks so much for this post.

  5. Thanks for letting me know about the link, present! My cutting and pasting musta got outta hand!
    There used to be a lot of interaction when I was living with the ‘rents, before I headed south, but mostly on my part it was “supervising.” LOL! I didn’t officially have a major part until 1994 (the year of the carriage and goofy horses, top photo) when I was in TX, so we had something like an offshore outsourcing thing going on! I’d draw the design; print an original for copying and several tester sheets so Mom could experiement with colors; and then I’d shore up the materials to wing their way to the great white north.
    We’re a pretty reserved group, so no extremes on either end of the scale, loving or hating. But the stress of the busy season and the frustration of feeling like you’ll never get it all done, did cause tempers to be short enough for snapping or demanding and bruising the occasional ego.
    Once a year, something human like duty flashed across the screen so quickly it was barely recognized as the question, “Are we going to do this again this year?” and it was gone, a nonissue, a non-choice. It was, as you say, a tradition that drove itself, that lived because it wanted to, was meant to, or something like that.
    The best part of this tradition, the icing, the cream and cherry, is being in the creative zone, making something with your hands, listening to music, no thinking, just doing, creating. Yummy :-)
    Your family’s view of traditions cracked me up. I so understand that. And yes, I guess that is a tradition, too! Our family has dispensed with a whole lot of traditions that my grandmother fueled, but I always return home for Christmas and we always do the cards. The tendency is to say the ones that stuck must be real and the others not, and that traditions aren’t traditions unless they’re time-worn, but that’s too much like a kid just outta college getting refused a job for lack of experience! LOL!

    Hi Bass! Ew, yeah, Christmas can be all of those negatives. But all in all, I think tradition is like going to church: if it’s a tool that helps you come to a screeching, soul-searching halt, and it works in a positive way for you, and you can then go out in the world and pass on some of that positive, then alright ! That’s kind of how participating in this card-making tradition works for me. Even if I can’t always see it, I know that nice creative zone I get into, all quiet, like a rare silent night, holy night, goes positively beyond the immediate : )

    A lovely comment, Alisa! Thank you : ) I agree with you regarding art, but my mom keeps calling them the D-word ;-)

    Aw, Paschal, you got a way, you do, with your yin yang doo wop shoobop. Thanks for reminding me about the goose ;-)

    And anno, my goodness, that was one of the most touching paragraphs I’ve ever read. I would only change one thing, and that would be with great hesitation to disturb a sleeping babe, with just as much concern for marring beauty. If the Chimayó cocktail was just another cocktail I’d leave it alone, but it represents the same magic that you wrote of, the same spirit, the same love : )
    Thank you for the beauty you created here and for reminding me about Chimayó ;-)

  6. This would be a great project for families to do together. I’m sure the recipients are thrilled with such beautiful cards. It would feel like a daunting project to me! Nice tradition!

  7. I’m in awe of these beautiful cards. Even the stick reindeer dance for me! And behind it all are years of a tradition most would envy. Thank you for posting these lovely photos.

  8. Beautiful tradition, even if I weren’t an artist! All the love your parents penned into making these, yr after yr. Wow.
    I still use flair pens, not for my art, but for writing. They are my preference to computer or other pens. They were terrific thinner lines than magic markers for those cards your parents made.

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