Noe Valley Voice December-January 2004

Florence's Family Album

By Florence Holub

Editor's Note: As many of their 21st Street neighbors know, Florence and Leo Holub have a long tradition of sending creative, if slightly belated, holiday cards. Florence first catalogued the family opus in this story, published in the December 1990/ January 1991 Voice.

Every Christmas, my husband Leo and I send out personalized cards of our own making. I'll do a drawing or Leo will select one of his photographs, and we'll print out our message using the small hand-press we have in the basement. It is always a time-consuming task, but nevertheless an enjoyable one, which we have continued for nearly half a century with encouragement from family and friends.

When I look back over our various Christmas card endeavors, the cards merge with my memories of our family's evolution. The first of our creations (in 1942) depicted only the two of us. The next card, three. In time, the number increased to four, and a few years later--after our third little boy came into the picture--five.

One year, Leo photographed us singly, and then began to design the composition that would incorporate us all. He didn't want a lineup of faces in a row across the bottom, so he decided to place the photograph of his own head upside down, hanging from the top of the card, which did make for an unusual and more interesting arrangement. After printing the message in red ink, he sealed, stamped, and sent the cards off in time for Christmas.

This particular card, however--with Leo hanging from the ceiling, separate from the rest of the family--caused some consternation in the mind of one of my eastern aunts. She wrote another aunt, asking "Are Florence and Leo having trouble?" We weren't, so the word went back that all was quiet on the western front.

There were years when other activities intervened, so that we didn't get our cards out until New Year's, or well into January. Consequently, the Holubs' Christmas cards got to be a kind of Christmas joke, inspiring a lot of chortling among our more punctual friends. One year we were so late, with no chance of getting the job done, that we took the easy--and funny--way out (we thought).

It was already February, and friends were asking where the cards were, so Leo printed a batch of postcards that said, "Your Xmas card has been delayed." We put them in the mailbox and out of our minds.

But in early March we received a postcard from some East Coast friends that just said, "Well?" Since we had completely forgotten about the postcards by this time, we were puzzled as to its meaning. Leo remembered that they had invited us to visit them in Connecticut, and I recalled their interest in a pending civic matter, but neither seemed to be the answer to the puzzle that plagued us for a week--until it all came back.

Realizing that our friends' question should not go unanswered, we responded, just as mysteriously. Every day, for 15 days, we sent them a single ornate letter of the alphabet that would eventually spell out "Merry Christmas." We had just mailed the R in Christmas when we received a card pleading, "Stop, stop!", which we gladly did, of course, while vowing to do better thereafter.

We did do better in 1980, when we produced a particularly inspired Christmas card. Leo's Noe Valley photograph, San Francisco from Red Rock Hill, had been chosen to hang in Walter Mondale's vice presidential mansion that year. And Mondale's charming wife (called "Joan of Art" by many) celebrated Leo and several other artists by inviting them to see their works on display. We happily honored the invitation, and later the event, by having the photograph reproduced as our Christmas card that year.

Some of our cards reflect our trips to the wilderness or to the national parks. In 1989, we sent a picture of a sassy, loping Yosemite coyote, photographed as the snow was falling. This year , in honor of the [1990] Yosemite Valley Centennial, our card will be a photograph from the 1970s, taken when we participated in the artists-in-residence program there. It will not be shown in the Voice, however, for if things go as they often do, our Christmas card may be delayed.

A Merry Christmas to you all anyway!