I've spent the past several nights doing my Christmas cards, which have become a sort of annual event -- at least in my own mind. I do look forward to them, and occasionally people will ask about them nearabouts Thanksgiving. After I figure out what the card itself is going to be, I go through my address book and see who's still where they were last year, and who I need to get a new address from.
The writer Alan Gurganus said that his address book was the most important book he'd ever written -- it was filled with his friends who had died of AIDS, hundreds of them, he said. And I just listened to Joan Didion on Fresh Air talk about how it was impossible to cross people out of her address book, and so it, too, was filled with the dead.
There are only two entries like that in my address book. One of them just says Mer, for Meredith Helton. The other one, Meg, had so many addresses that her section is filled with smudges of black marker. I've used four different pens, and drawn arrows pointing my eye to the appropriate house number or zip code.
There are phone numbers of men who I no longer speak to, or who I wish I had the courage to call again, or that I never really spoke to consistently in the first place. Wishful thinking, perhaps, on my part. The playwright, the paralegal, the video editor, the photographer, the dancer from Mexico whose name isn't there because it is too painful to write it.
I've been thinking about how you can trace the months as you move through the alphabet, how many years pass when you turn a page.