This is the week, between Christmas and New Year’s Day, when you pretend that you really did send Christmas cards to folks who mailed you one but to whom you never sent diddly.
If you are like me, you quickly send them a card and make believe that it was mailed before Christmas by inscribing messages that could only have been written pre-Christmas, like, “Wow, me and the kids sure as heck are hopin’ that it snows before Christmas Day so we can get a little snowboardin’ in.” It’s a lot like the family of the kidnap victim demanding that their loved one be shown, in a photo, holding a current-date copy of the newspaper.
Of course, in my case, this happens only once every three years, since I only send Christmas cards every third year. I think that my every-third-year Christmas card plan is eco-friendly, but that claim is made about everything these days and I do not really know what it means. Actually, I am cheap and writing them out is a pain, so the way I figure it, I send you a card this year, you immediately are embarrassed because you never sent me diddly and add me to your list for next year, maybe even send me one of those make-up cards between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Two years from now, the holidays roll around, and your spouse says “Hey, that lout (meaning me) has not sent us zippo for two Christmases, so take him off the list.” Presto, you get my every-third-year card, you are embarrassed again and the cycle begins anew.
Some other things about Christmas cards: I purchase the cheapest ones I can buy at Target and have my name affixed by a printer. It’s not so much the money — although it is less costly -— but it is decidedly noncommittal. Just my name and affiliation, no handwritten sentimentality. I am thinking about a line of non-gooey, noncommittal greeting cards even for family members: “Hey Hubby, You Really Are Something on This, Our Wedding Anniversary.” I hesitate to tell you these things for fear that you will think some of my screws need to be tightened.
But I also re-card people. I figure if people are re-gifting, why not re-card? Friends who send me Christmas cards by December 15 can expect to get that exact same card back before Christmas, with their names scratched out and mine ballpointed in directly above. Makes for some really good conversations when you bump into that person. Also, that does save money; you only have to buy envelopes (the Postal Service gets upset when you start putting more than one address on the front of a used envelope).
Also — and you should not try this at home — I have been known to paste my own head among family members in a group shot. Politicians especially favor these Christmas cards with pictures of their entire families on them. I carefully remove the head of the largest person in the photo (usually the husband, but not always) and replace it with my head. But most of the time, my headshot is black and white and the group photo in color. I remember several years ago, Sen. Hugh Farley sent a card showing his entire brood in some sort of tropical setting, maybe Hawaii, I don’t recall, and my black and white head among all these tanned, healthy looking people seemed somewhat foolish (but I suppose that was the point, was it not?). Bobby Abrams, the attorney general many years ago, sent out a black and white photo of his family, and I blended in nicely.
Look, at least I try. Fewer and fewer Americans are even sending Christmas cards, their own heads on them or not. I saw somewhere that the Greeting Card Association (whew, what a convention that must be!) estimates that 1.5 billion cards were sold this holiday season, down from 2.7 billion a decade ago. Even those loopy “family update holiday letters,” where people bore the bejeepers out of you, relating every pathetic detail of their year past, are off. When people are tweeting daily each time they go to the rest room, is there really a need to summarize each December?
I read this week that two men have been mailing the exact same Christmas card back and forth to one another for 61 years now. Acker Hanks, now 89, and Lee Kelley, currently dead, both lived in Texas when the little joke began in 1950. Over the years, Kelley moved all over the map, but the card kept coming and going, and these two happy yuksters would write clever holiday notes to each other. Kelley succumbed more than 10 years ago (perhaps from the tension of waiting for the card) and Hanks started sending it to Kelley’s widow.
The card was returned to sender this year; Hanks thinks maybe the old lady got moved to a nursing home, so he will have the card framed and just stare at it on the wall.
I mean, how much fun can you have anywhere else for just 44 cents?