By Tracy Miller Geary
I’ve lost track of how many times my kids have made fun of my address book. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I even have an address book that causes their distain or if it’s the condition of the book itself. For the past 30 years, I’ve used the same brown leather Filofax address book I purchased after my first paycheck from my first real job after college. At one time, it was a thing to behold…soft brown leather without a scratch on it, full of crisp, clean pages upon which I carefully wrote down the names and addresses of friends and family. This book, a symbol of my new-found adulthood, showed the world that I was organized, or more accurately, that I strived to be. I vowed to maintain its pristine condition, and for a few years, I did.
But somewhere along the way, things changed. My friends and I moved around a lot in our twenties, so I’d hurriedly dash down a new address on a piece of scrap paper and stick it in among the pages. Our lives were so fluid; it didn’t seem right to put down in pen what was probably a temporary address. Friends got married so I crossed out old last names and added new ones. Then I got married and added my new last name to my book along with the names and contact information of my husband’s family. Suddenly it seemed like everyone I knew was having children; I squeezed in babies’ names and birthdates in the margins of the pages.
We moved around and I had to change my address one, two, three times, and again. When our first daughter was born, it was easier to stuff a printout of the addresses of the members in my new moms’ group into the back of the book than find the time to write them out individually. By the time we added a second daughter to our family, I was keeping track of new addresses by ripping return address labels off envelopes and cramming them into my book.
After a move across the state, I tore out pages of the old town phone book and shoved them in the back of my Filofax. I fully intended to write down all the highlighted addresses of friends I left behind. But I got too busy. Organizing my address book fell into the same category of putting all my photos into albums, which sadly, has yet to happen. (But that’s another story). The more people I added to my list, the less time I had to manage their addresses.
One by one, my oldest relatives passed away. My grandparents, two beloved great-aunts. Then a young cousin. One friend, and then another. I could no more erase their names from my book than I could forget them. A few friends got divorced, which led to name changes again and two addresses now instead of one. Nieces and nephews grew up and moved, first to colleges and then to homes in cities around the country. My oldest daughter has gone from our house to a college dorm to an apartment many states away.
Over the years, friends have bought me new address books but I have yet to use them. My kids pester me to put the addresses into my phone, but a few lines on a phone can’t tell a story the way a slip of paper or a crossed-out address can. It’s December now, so I’ve pulled out my old Filofax once again to write my Christmas cards. A few scraps of paper fall to the floor when I open it, and the pages are a little ragged and frayed. I dream of getting my cards done on time for a change, of rushing through the process so I can cross it off my To Do list, but instead, I pause on each name. Each one is a story, a history, which has formed my story, my history. In a year that has left all of us feeling untethered, these are the people who keep me anchored.
So, to my friends and family, I can say with certainty that once again, my cards will not arrive on time this year. I hope you understand.
Tracy Miller Geary is a short story writer and a member of the Writers Studio at FYACS. She is currently at work on a novel-in-stories about a beekeeper and his family.