My Post-Divorce Relationship With Holiday Cards

It’s complicated

Brianna Conrey

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Photo by Mockaroon on Unsplash

One morning in early November, I opened my inbox to find a tempting offer.

The shelter where we had adopted our guinea pigs was advertising holiday card portrait sessions. Your furry friend could be photographed either in front of a cozy fire trimmed with Christmas stockings, or atop a toy train chugging through a snowy landscape. “Props will vary depending upon the size of your pet(s),” the message noted, leaving it to the reader to imagine what props might be involved.

The session cost $25 per pet, but bonded pairs counted as one pet. I called my two boys over to ask whether they thought we should get a portrait of our bonded pair of “guinea girls,” Squeak and Munchette. Not surprisingly, they were in favor.

Sending a holiday card featuring our guinea pigs seemed like a light-hearted way to re-enter the world of families who sent holiday cards, a world I had left after getting divorced three years ago. I almost went for it. Maybe it would be a way for us to thumb our noses at convention and let the world know we were okay with being a different kind of family. In the end, though, I decided guinea pigs on a train didn’t say “divorced but fine” so much as “weird, just very weird.”

The whole time I was growing up, and even to this day, my mom has an address book full of friends and family members she exchanges cards with every year. She usually collects enough to tape them to the wall in the shape of a large Christmas tree. Whenever I am home for the holidays, I love to reminisce and gossip with my parents about whatever news the cards contain.

For the years I was married and especially after we had kids, sending and receiving holiday cards was one of my favorite grown-up things to do. I had my own long list of friends and family to exchange cards with. I didn’t quite have the ambition to personalize every card, but I did at least hand-write my signature, since my mom thought it was tacky not to.

When my kids were small and photo cards became trendy, I would spend several mostly enjoyable hours sorting through our photos from the year and picking out candidates for the card. I say “mostly” enjoyable because it often became apparent that there were no pictures where…

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Brianna Conrey

Family, relationships, and life after divorce with a twist of humor. Exploring happiness, creativity, and how to be a good person in a complicated world.