Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Etiquette of Carding

© 2008 Leighann Lord

I am proud to say – the economy notwithstanding – we sent out Christmas cards. I felt compelled not to let another year go by without acknowledging the holiday. Last year it snuck up on me and I just couldn’t get it together. You know how it is. One minute I’m relaxing at a Labor Day barbeque, the next minute I’m frantically wrapping presents I can’t afford and making New Year’s Resolutions I won’t keep.

Our card is a simple family photo. My friends’ holiday cards always feature a Sears type portrait of themselves and their kids. We wanted to do the same but society sort of frowns on kidnaping. "If anybody asks, my name is ‘Mommy’ not ‘Crazy Lady’. Now stop crying and smile for the camera."

It’s no less awkward trying to cut a deal with the parents directly. "No, no. I don’t want ransom money. I’ll pay you. I just need the kid for a couple of hours."

So, our family photo is me, my Husband and our cranky Cocker Spaniel, Rolie. Inspired by our trip to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, we chose an Amish theme. My Husband wore a black, wide-brimmed Amish hat and I donned a white bonnet. Rolie is forever well-dressed in his furry tuxedo.

Not that I’m keeping score, but we didn’t receive as many holiday cards this year as last. I don’t know if people are just cutting back or if the custom of mailing Christmas cards is a fading fashion. I have, however, received quite a few holiday greetings via email. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I haven’t decided if it is eco-friendly, or plain cheap and lazy.

I’m firmly not a fan of the holiday text message. It presumes I have an unlimited plan or that I don’t mind paying 40 cents to receive your holiday greetings. And if that’s not bad enough I don’t even get the full "Merry Christmas" but the abbreviated "M. X-mas." If you’re texting me on my dime you can’t be both gauche and ungracious. I guess I’m kinda old fashioned. Nothing says you really care like a card send via the United States Postal Service, or so I thought.

My Mother looked at me in horror when she learned I was sending a card to my Aunt Dorothy. "You can’t do that!" she said. Now every family has it secrets. I thought I might have stumbled upon some heretofore unknown juicy feud that I was, at last, deemed old enough to know about. My curiosity peeked, I said, "Why can’t I send a card to Aunt Dorothy?"
"Because your Uncle Percel died," s
he said.

Uncle Percel, my Aunt’s husband, passed away this year. I felt horrible because I was out of town and unable to attend the services. I thought the least I could do was send my Aunt a Christmas card, but my Mother firmly said, "No!" and explained that it’s customary not to send Christmas cards to someone who’s had a death in their immediate family. "Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?"

"It’s intrudes on their grief," she said. Now, I don’t doubt my Mom. She’s my in-house Miss Manners, but how intrusive is a card? Intruding is going to someone’s house unannounced expecting dinner and a show. The holidays are tough when you’ve lost someone. Wouldn’t a simple Christmas card let someone know they’re loved, remembered and not alone?

But my Mom and Aunt are of the same generation. If I send the card anyway, will she think I was being rude? Will my Kwanza stamp clad envelope reveal me to be an insensitive and classless clod? Will my Aunt open the envelop thinking, "Doesn’t she [me] know any better?" Will it signal that I have – as we say in Carribean culture – no "brought-upsy;" no "good home training?" More to the point, will this reflect badly on my Mother? Oh no, we can’t have that!

And so the conundrum: To send or not to send. The decision: mailed the card after the New Year with a note explaining my loving rudeness. I’m hoping it will distract my Aunt from her grief by making her wonder when I, her dear niece, became Amish.

Thank you for reading The Urban Erma.

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