Send and They Will Come

January 6, 2011 at 12:34 pm 2 comments

The hush of warm air from the ductwork signalled it was about seven a.m. on a morning that I didn’t have to get up and go to work. I fluffed the covers, adjusted my pillow and let my brain ease into gear. I thought of Christmas cards. There is no reason to what goes on in the early morning mind. Perhaps the purpose of coffee is to shock those misfiring synapses into sensibility. Whatever; I went with the flow.

How the practice of Christmas card sending has changed over my lifetime. I know there are still those who send out stacks of cards at Christmas but I sense the decline in that habit. I suppose the cost of cards and stamps has something to do with it and I’m sure the Internet has had an effect too, but do you remember the good old days?

I take you back to my parent’s home in the late fifties and early sixties. The early warm up to the main event has taken place where the cards to England and Wales have been sent, filled with merry messages and news of the past year along with the obligatory “Hope to see you in the New Year.” They were mailed just before the deadline to assure their arrival at the perfect time just before Christmas. Tonight the main event takes place.

On this night I get to control the television because through the archway, Mom and Dad have taken over the dining room. It’s a scene like a forties movie. The smoke from Mom’s unfiltered cigarettes gives the room the hazy look of a harried news room as she sits at one end of the table doing family cards and Dad sits at the other end, a glass of Golden Wedding within reach and writes the business oriented cards. Jovial messages are custom crafted for each card as two long lists are worked through. Christmas card night runs for hours after supper and my job comes right at the end. When all the cards are written and inserted into envelopes, it is my job to lick stamps and Christmas Seals (remember those?) and attach them in the proper place. The Jones family were sticklers for tradition so no ‘licking’ the stamps with a damp cloth, proper tongue work had to be employed. “Why don’t they have mint flavoured glue” I asked myself every year. I feared waking up in the morning with my lips sealed shut. I was a quiet kid and nobody would have noticed for days.

Once the stacks of cards were sealed and sorted, they were banded with out of town; out of province; out of country and out of this world strips kindly provided by the Post Office. In those days the Posties even reduced the stamp price from six cents to five for Christmas cards. Do you remember those days? How old are you? At any rate, Dad would leave for work next morning with this load of cards and repeated reminders from Mom as smoke belched out the door, to make sure they get mailed and use such and such a mailbox to ensure they get there at the perfect time.

About this time, cards would start to arrive. Inevitably there would be unexpected ones sending Mom and Dad into sniper mode to return a card immediately so as to appear that they had actually sent one before being surprised by some social climber, ass kisser or family reject. Of course jovial messages were included. Christmas was a jovial time even if it was through gritted teeth.

I followed my parent’s example but for one reason or another, I let the practice dwindle over the years. It was interesting to pare the list down and see just how many people sent us a card when we hadn’t sent them one. The following year they would cut us off and so the list grew smaller.

My parent’s motivation was definitely one of good will. Their list was so large (and grew ever larger) in order to extend that good will to the fringes of their associates and acquaintances but it also created the ‘send and they will come’ phenomenon. Cards arriving at those fringes triggered hasty cards in response to say, ‘you were on my list too!”

As my wife and I cut those fringes out over the years our list shrunk. This year it would have been zero but we had some envelopes and cards left from past years that were already stamped with uncancelled stamps from last year so we sent cards to the few people according to the number of those stamps. Now, we did receive cards that in the old days would have sent us to the dining room table in a panic to snipe them pronto but this year we resisted plus the uncancelled stamps were sparse this year.

To those who expected a card and got none – sorry about that. Be assured we wish you the Merriest of Christmases and the Happiest of New Years plus we really must get together soon. To those who did get a card – the stamps are gone so next year will be touch and go. Rest assured that you are near and dear to our hearts.



Entry filed under: Articles.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Lisa Llamrei  |  January 7, 2011 at 8:33 am

    You were a quiet kid?? Wow, times really do change.

  • 2. Dale Long  |  January 7, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    What a great story! I pictured you in Chevy Chase’s place, stuck in the attic, in A Christmas Vacation. Memories playing out in flickering black and white on a small screen, the whirl of the movie projector in the background.

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