The Game’s Afoot!


Imagine a world where mail at Christmas — and any other time of the year — was so ubiquitous, you could devise a game around it. I know nothing about this Victorian board game entitled Christmas Mail except that it was once sold to and played by families more than a century ago.

What might have been the objective — to deliver more letters than anyone else, to receive more cards, or perhaps to maneuver past obstacles like snowed in mountain passes or spooky forests to place children’s Christmas wish lists into the hands of the big guy in red?

Whatever that game’s original goals, my own game of Christmas Mail has but two: send out Christmas cards in time for friends and family to open them by December 25th (a date I don’t always meet), and maybe collect a few from my mailbox in return.

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

christmas-mail-1Readers, are you still out there?

My mail ship veered off course for nearly a year. You can imagine all of the reasons — excuses — and none of them provides an adequate explanation. My life and the accompanying calendar just zoomed past at breathtaking speed. But as the holidays approach, my thoughts inevitably turn to Christmas cards and reconnections and this sadly neglected blog.

Maybe I should not promise to be a better correspondent in the future. Like the scrawled note at the bottom of a seasonal card, intentions are good, but distractions are many. So even if these electronic cards and letters are destined to post only sporadically in the future, let me say here and now HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Let’s begin a season of Christmas.

Fruitcake Defense


Abigail Samoun, my editor at Tricycle Press, sent me this card. Although I laughed, honesty compels me to say I LIKE fruitcake. I even love some fruitcakes, so none ever sits around long enough to become fossilized in my home.

Tricycle published my first picture book, Why Explore?, as well as two additional books. However, as an imprint of Ten Speed Press, it was acquired along with that company by a larger publisher five years ago, and poor Tricycle was disbanded.

But Abigail and I have a happy ending. We continue to work together because she is now my literary agent.

So Abi, I’m still waiting for my fruitcake, fossilized or otherwise.

Have a Capitol Christmas

CapitolMy friends Michael and Irena, who live in a suburb of Washington, D.C., sent me this holiday card with a firm sense of place. I not only love that it includes the Capitol as a centerpiece, but also enjoy the wintry ambiance of Pennsylvania Avenue in days gone by. Trams, horse drawn sleighs and a whole city full of busy people populate the snowy street.

Fair 3

The little town where I live is far less busy, but I was reminded of this scene when my daughter and I attended the town’s annual Christmas fair last weekend. We rode in a light-strung, horse drawn carriage that followed close behind another. Listening to the clop of hooves trotting down the street, seeing familiar buildings from a higher, unfamiliar perch — it was a step back in time and the perfect kick off to the holidays. Now if only there had been a light dusting of snow…

Fair 2

Fair 1

Happy Hanukkah

hanukkahThe Festival of Light begins early in December this year. Although I celebrate Christmas, I keep track of Hanukkah because my mother’s family is Jewish. My dad’s family wasn’t, and my parents chose to raise my sister and me with Christmas trees and stockings and visits to the department store Santa.

My mother’s sister, Betty, celebrated Hanukkah with her husband and daughter, but they always visited our home for Christmas dinner. Aunt Betty hosted Thanksgiving, and that’s how the two sisters divided the holidays year after year, decade after decade.

When Hanukkah rolls around, I don’t think of menorahs and dreidels. Instead, when I call my Aunt Betty to wish her a happy holiday, I remember how much she and my mother, Carlyn, enjoyed each other’s company every Christmas.

Betty & Mom 2
Betty & Mom 1

Betty & Mom 3

Happy Hanukkah, Aunt Betty. Merry Christmas, Mom.Betty & Mom 4

Summer Santa

summer santa 3Growing up in California, I knew that the weather was more likely to turn warm than bitter cold for Christmas. Despite that climate reality, we have always “played” at winter during the holidays. Temperatures might drop down to the 50s or 60s, and every retailer knows that the mindset for Christmas shopping is “Brrrrrrrrr!”

So mannequins sport sweaters and mufflers, fake snow drapes window displays and we all fantasize about crackling fires and roasting chestnuts.

However, in those parts of the world never touched by cold snaps or climatologically reversed from Old World winters (like Australia), Santa has traded his trousers for swimming trunks and his fur trim for flippers.

Say hello to the Summer Santa!

My friend, Carol Buck, sent the top card from Hawaii — “Mele Kalikimaka” from a world of tropical reefs and year-round snorkeling, though I have no idea how Santa and Rudolph constructed theirs. Bamboo?

summer santa 2A different friend, also named Carol, sent Santa in an outrigger canoe, his reindeer paddling happily with him (perhaps because they finally ditched Rudolph and his “nose so bright”). A rainbow paints the sky, and their destination is just visible as the tip of a rocky shore.

I love how plumeria rather than sleigh bells decorate the struts of the canoe.

Finally, Helen in Melbourne, Australia sent me surfing Santa and his greeting of “Happy Christmas.” Those waves prove a challenge for most of the elves, but Santa sure knows how to ride his board.

And if you are enjoying a traditional December of cold and ice where you live, warm your hands for a moment with these Summer Santas.

summer santa 1

Letter to Santa

Letter to SantaSomewhere, hidden away (so well I can’t remember where to find them) are my daughter’s letters to Santa. There aren’t many because the span of years between her learning to write and her relinquishing her belief in the magical fellow was brief.

Yet, for a few years, literacy and wonder combined. Before she wrote letters, she simply told me what she wanted Santa to bring her. Dumbo one year, the Bambi movie another — whatever loomed large on her childhood horizon.

If you have a little one writing a letter to Santa this year, or are penning one yourself, you may use the image at the top of this page to decorate a card or stationery. It’s available (for free) on the Graphic Fairy website.

And get those letters in the mailbox; this is the busiest time of year for the post office AND the North Pole!

Meeting Santa

huntingtonIt’s fun to receive invitations in the mail, isn’t it? Even when they are mass produced.

Once again the Huntington (museum, library and gardens) has used an antique postcard to create their invitation to members to meet Santa. My daughter is grown but still likes to pose with the magic man in the red suit, so perhaps we will go and enjoy the late autumn colors in the gardens. Nothing like a visit with Santa to start the holidays humming.

santa and kid