Missing the point with Christmas Cards

    I donít expect to have many friends after this appears. But then again, Iím not sure I had so many of them before.

    ĎTis the season to clean off the mantle and toss out all the Christmas cards. A lot of them made me mad.

    To begin with, it seems to me that if you canít write them out and sign them yourself, then you are sending out too many.

    Sometimes just the addresses are printed by computer. This is somewhat forgivable since, if you have handwriting like mine, an envelope you intend for Chicago will end up in China. But still, youíre talking what, 20, 30 seconds to write out an address? And you donít have to lick stamps anymore.

    Next come the cards that have the pre-printed signatures. Of course I donít mind this if it comes from my plumber or oil company, but it feels kind of frigid if this is a friendís idea of a warm holiday greeting.

    Many people complain about the relatively recent tradition of the Xeroxed holiday letter. Iím not one of them. The concept doesnít bother me, but often the content does.

    Sometimes these epistles are a list of all the things these people bought for themselves during the year, and a narrative about how witty, smart, athletic and charming their child is (even though sheís about seven months old).

    My friends, this is the Era of Self-Esteem. All kids do well in school.

    By the way, donít kids ever get held back anymore? When I was a freshman in high school, we had a classmate who came to school in his own car. And he had a beard.

    Most of these kids have some sort of trendy, unisex moniker like Taylor or Logan. In New England we used to say "if it ainít broke, donít fix it.í So what was wrong with names like Charlie, John and Jane?

    A lot of people brought September 11 into their annual ramblings. As in: "The difficult events of the Fall really helped us put into perspective the things that really matter. As we watched those horrible scenes again and again on our new giant-screen flat-panel television . . . "

    I canít figure out why people who spend money on worthy causes, like endowing a wing in a hospital or just springing for a few meals for the homeless donít feel the need to mention it but everyone who takes a cruise or buys a new sports car thinks it important that everyone knows about it.

    Then again, down here on the Gold Coast I often see SUVís bearing Vermont plates with lettering to spell out a ski resort or something like WE-SKI, which is the equivalent of saying "Hey everyone! We can afford a house in Vermont!"

    The "old money" crowd might not be the most enlightened group in the world, but at least they know better than to flaunt it in everyoneís face.

    Some of the letters made for an amusing read. I do have friends who admit to their own failings or the dumb things that their kids do. One friend told a funny story about taking her son to the emergency room when he bit through his cheek after receiving Novocain from the dentist. Okay, it might not sound funny, but Mom did a good job in the telling.

    The French have a tradition of sending out letters to their friends in January and talking about the events of the past year. It makes sense to do this after Christmas, when all the holiday discombobulation is done with. How about that? The French with a good idea.

    The absolute worst, as regular readers of this space know by now, are the child pictures. Children are held forth like a coat-of-arms or a hood ornament. I want to see how my friends are holding up ( Do the men still have hair, are the women starting to look matronly?), not look at some brat on his whitewater rafting trip.            

    These enclosures are like shouting: "THIS IS MY KID! ISNíT HE GREAT?"

    Parents and the kids should be in the picture. Two universal truths are: (1) that all parents think their children are incredibly cute, and (2) most children arenít. Theyíre just regular kids, a good thing to be but the parents donít realize it. Some of these photos are hard on the eyes, especially the babies. Nice drool, kid.

    This year I have a plan. Iím saving all these pictures, and next year, Iím gonna send them out to other people. I expect Iíll mix a few of them up and mail them back to their original owners, but what the heck? They probably wonít be talking to me after this column anyway

    Yup, I suppose Iíll be getting fewer Christmas cards next year. But thatís the price of being a hard-hitting journalist. It ought to make my mailman happy Ė maybe heíll send me a card.


January 24, 2002