Dear Friend

File photo of a customer looking at an iPhone 4 at the Apple Store 5th Avenue in New York

The phone signals its callers light,
It’s ring with a special sound bite.
Hello, hi or Yes, I might say,
In response to you, I sit and stay
To talk, to laugh, to be a friend,
For minutes or hours until the end.
I listen, share and cry with you,
For news that’s good and news that’s blue.

But now we talk much less and less,
And when we talk we just digress.
Our ways have parted with the time,
Slowly dying, such a crime.
We still have other means to see,
One another with the family.
Nonstop talk is at an end,
There’s not the time for us to spend.
Still, dear friend when you need me,
Just pick up the phone, dial and see.

When did we decide to stop sending Christmas cards?

I realised today that no one sent me a Christmas card. Don’t feel sorry for me. I didn’t send Christmas cards to anyone either. When I think about it, I can’t remember the last time I received a personal letter from anyone or when I last took the trouble to write one.

For many years the trigger to rush to the shops to buy Christmas cards was the receipt of the first Christmas card, late November from a super efficient friend. I usually organised an evening with my  cards, address book, pen and stamps. My old address book showed the ravages of time with its tattered pages and many alterations often marked with white out, a last century wonder corrector.

Starting in alphabetical order I pulled out the appropriate Christmas card; for the elderly Aunt, a nice religious element; for the young friend, something humorous. I would rack my brain for the name of the partner or children to put into the greeting only to give up and write ‘and family’. I would think up earnest sincere wishes ignoring the standard prepopulated greeting. Afterall, mine was far more personal. On the blank side would be updates about my year, finishing with, ‘Hope to catch up soon.’

The first ten cards were always carefully written but after getting to the “D’s”, the greetings became shorter and shorter. I dreaded the “G’s” . . . there was at least ten on that page. To save time I devised a system of dividing my cards into two. I wrote a shorter greeting to one group and a longer greeting for the other group. I deigned to give them, what we used to call, correspondence.

How did I decide who would be on the ‘short greeting’ list?
These were people who I saw all the time. They knew it was me, they didn’t need an update; they knew it already! It was people I didn’t know very well but on last meeting wanted to keep in touch; and others who warranted a card simply because they had sent one to me and I needed to reciprocate. I liked this group. The rising pile of sealed cards gave me a sense of accomplishment.

Who received a long greeting?
They were far away relatives and friends; people met via travel with the promise of keeping in contact. I kept up my Christmas card correspondence for many years with several of my travel acquaintances; and people I wanted to connect with but I had lost my way to them.
Somehow in the interest of time, my second group became smaller over the years. Sometimes I didn’t receive a card or letter in return.

Did I enjoy receiving cards?
I sure did. I displayed them proudly like a status symbol, on tinsel strung along my mantel piece. I enjoyed the envious glances from visitors who I knew were secretly wondering how I had acquired so many friends.

Why did I stop sending Christmas cards?
Was it laziness, and maybe cost? Perhaps that’s why I don’t send or receive letters or cards. When was the last time you received a letter from anyone? The best you can hope for is one at Christmas time. Does ‘snail mail’ take too long in an age of instant gratification?

So what do we do instead . . . email, Twitter, Facebook, SMS, Snapchat perhaps? But do you really write anything personal to your friends using social media? I don’t!

I wonder if the art of writing a letter or card to our friends has been lost.
Is our circle of real friends just shrinking even though we might have 800 “Facebook Friends”? Is an ecard, jib jab card or email really good enough? You can’t display it anywhere and you can’t keep it forever. Yes, I know the environment is much better off without all that extra paper. But have we just substituted it with techno gadget rubbish discarded due to obsolescence? We can recycle our cards, can’t we?

I miss the excitement of going to the mail box and finding a letter hand written with my name on it; ripping open the envelope and hungrily reading the contents with a smile, picking up a photo and admiring the writer or their family.  I miss placing the card on the mantel piece smiling in pleasure that the sender gave me more than I had expected.

Whatever the reason, it’s time to do something about it! So my New Year’s resolution is to write thoughtful and meaningful Christmas cards and perhaps a letter or two. I’ve got a whole year to get ready.

A Hot Summer Day

The cat

The cicadas draw my attention with their screech,
And the morning vocal bird song is strangely silent.
The midday heat burns and dries my eyeballs,
Penetrating my head with a thumping beat.
I blinkingly glance at the cat splayed across the deck,
Lying in the shade of the table made from worn planks.
Asleep, yet her moving tail is twitchingly alert,
A sound escapes her lips and eyes open to opportunity.
Flies buzz and dance around a fresh carcass,
A shrivelled worm, its life cut short.
Ignore the cat’s insistent appeal,
To touch the sunburnt remains of the once pink delicate hydrangea,
Thirstily waiting for a cool spray, yet to come.
The gray concrete innocently invites my bare feet
To dance across it, and smoulder bare soles.
Brown dirt beckons through the faded parched blades,
That was, weeks ago, a lush oasis of cool green.
The leaves of trees silhouette a darkening sky,
Full of promise for somewhere else?
A blustering wind springs suddenly and
Roughly swaddles me with repugnant warmth.
The washing hangs in a stiff replica of what it was meant to be,
The cat’s urgent demands end with a tumble of biscuits.
A faint bouquet of flames afar signals,
A quick escape into the cool darkness to wait.