I just received what will probably be the first keep-in-touch Christmas card of the season and it's really depressing and disappointing. I have long since commented on the fact that in other centuries most people lived and died within about 8 miles of where they were born and enjoyed (or were stuck with) the people they grew up with, whether they liked them or not. In a more recent century, thanks to widespread travel, we have had a wider assortment of people to choose from, and the world became not just our oyster but our oyster bed, full of potential pearls. And with mail and e-mail and easy reproduction (mass market cards, photocopies and print-outs), we have maintained a spurious relationship with a lot of people we liked but may never see again. I remember being (gently) dismayed when one friendly ship-mate acknowledged our brief friendship as just that - brief, and not to be maintained in our post-holiday life. She had travelled more than I had at that time and she was simply being very realistic. I acknowledged that fact of life with subsequent ship-board relationships. A few of them resulted in long-term friendships and visits but most of them became Christmas card contacts. As we use up the fossil fuels we may revert to a narrower field from which to choose our friends (and mates) than we have enjoyed.
I had actually written more but Safari, in its infinitely annoying wisdom, chose to remove most of it. So I'll cut to the chafe (sic) now. This card that I received came from my most frequent dinner companion. Remember we cruised for 109 days; I saw more of her than I see any friends at home in a similar length of time. We swam together most mornings, frequently shared the same experiences on an excursions and played Trivial Pursuit every day. I sent her a copy of one of my books and a couple of notes after I came home. She is an articulate person and computer literate. So when I saw her return address on an envelope in my mail box, I was very pleased, looking forward to reading her message.
She signed it with her full name, and that's all. For all I know, she had a secretary sign it. No other message, just a printed seasonal greeting on a mass-produced card.
I suppose it's a good thing, a valuable new lesson to have learned. If I were Aesop I could draw a succinct moral from it. I'm working on it.