Christmas cards and letters have hidden problems

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I have enjoyed each Christmas card and each Christmas letter I have received every year. It is great to hear from friends and relatives we don't see too often. It is also nice to be remembered by those we see quite often.

But there is a downside to the practice for me.

First, I have always made it a practice to donate some money to a charity instead of sending cards to people I will see personally during the season.

This takes care of my church family, our immediate family, those in the neighborhood and other organizations. But even though that has been my practice for quite a few years I still feel a twinge of guilt when I receive a nice card from a neighbor.

The second problem is how to compile the list that we send to each year.

Sometimes I have decided that a certain person has not sent us a card for a year or so, so I won't put them on the list this year. But sure enough, just as soon as I make that decision, here comes a pretty card from them. If there still seems to be time, I will dash off another card to them with a notation about being so late with my cards this year, hoping they won't know that theirs was not in our initial mailing.

I have received cards very late in the season from a friend from the distant past whom I had sent a card to earlier in the month. I just know that they had decided to drop us this year until they got our card, so they hurried one back to us. And yes, they had scratched a hurried note saying they were running late with their cards this year! Maybe I should just send a card back and say, "Let's call it quits on Christmas cards and just remember the good times we shared 50 years ago!" I enjoy getting e-mail cards but some people don't feel that they are a proper substitute for one you can hold in your hand or display in your living room. When I send an e-mail greeting I always add some news and comments so that the recipient doesn't think they were just part of a mass production effort.

Now I come to the problems of the Christmas letter. It really can't be true that every family I have ever known has exceptional children who have achieved great honors every year. Surely somewhere in our circle of friends there is at least one family whose kids didn't get chosen for the team, or who failed an important test.

I have thought about sending a letter that tells our friends that Lester and I had an argument this morning about my driving too fast and Marilyn didn't make her bed before she went to school even though she promised faithfully that she would do that each day. I could wax eloquently about how I left the outdoor cat shut in the breezeway by mistake and how many cans of deodorant was needed to remove the memories of that mistake. I could say that I plan to make my gelatin Christmas salad this year again even though I found out that hardly any of the family ever really liked it. And to end I could add that this letter may be the last one they will receive from me because it is just too much trouble to address all those envelopes each year and I have better things to do.

But I am sure that I will not do any of those things. I plan to start on my Christmas letter as soon as I get this column finished. But I may not get them mailed right away. You know that I am running late again this year!