It barely seems five minutes ago, but it's now a couple of years since we moved out of hell.
We got lucky in the end: buying a small bungalow on a quiet road with little traffic. No boy racers tearing up the street (if you don't count the local lads who seem to insist on pulling wheelies on their bikes all the way down the busy bypass two roads away), no 3-day parties with open door policies to everyone in a five mile radius and no 2am fights about who ate the last slice of pizza.
The house itself is not a bad size. At some point in it's past it had an extension done in a uPVC build that is half-extension, half-conservatory. There's a small bit of lawn at the back and a pull-in area at the end of the path for a few cars. We even have a garage - though as it was built in the 60s it's too small for modern cars and has an asbestos roof (fine until you come to move it, so they tell me)
Prior to us the house only had two previous owners: someone who lived there from 1960-61 (approximately), followed by a family who only moved out when they moved into a retirement flat.
Which makes the random Christmas Card all the stranger. It's to a Mr & Mrs R. White - and as far as we can tell no such person has ever lived here. It's certainly not the names of our predecessors and none of our neighbours even recognise the name from nearby. It's always inscribed to an Uncle and Aunt from a family of three and, of course, being a Christmas card there's no return address.
We've had this same card every year that we've lived here and, to be honest, it makes me rather sad. Firstly it suggests that in the past few years that we've lived here these two sides of the same family have had little or no contact with one another - otherwise surely they would have the correct address. Secondly because there's little or nothing I can do about it. I would love to be able to re-unite these family members, if only by returning the card to its sender.
It makes me wonder: not just about the state of their family relationships but of mine as well. How easy it is in this busy world to lose contact with family members and friends: whether by falling out or simply the process of getting on with the day to day things. My cousin, for instance, who I love to bits; but it could be a good 15 months since I've seen her and her boys are growing up quickly. My sister-in-law, that I'd like to be closer to, but who lives so far away.
I sometimes feel frustrated, as I suppose so many people do, that it always feels like it's me that has to make the effort to keep the relationships going: and that no one seems to do the same to me - I don't know how true that is, but I guess that at the end of the day it doesn't really matter as long as someone makes the effort.
There was a famous actor (famous in the UK anyway) who died recently. Not long before his death he had tried to reach out, not for the first time, to his former acting partner from the sit-com they were both known from. Back in the 70s Actor #1 had inadvertently told a story to the press about a minor occurrence in Actor #2s life (that, upon hearing his wife was pregnant, Actor #2 had swerved the car and nearly crashed). Actor #2, who was deeply private, never forgave him and never spoke to him again.
It's simply not worth it. Whatever has happened in your life, if it's at all possible: reach out and build that bridge before it's too late.
Last year we received a second random Christmas card, this time from Ireland, to a different family - who have also, so far as we can tell, never lived here. We have not received a second one from them so far. Let's hope they sorted it all out eh?