This year my wife and I mailed seventy-one Christmas cards to the usual assortment of friends and family. Each card included a personalized note, a smartly printed label, a professional photo of my children, and a subtle but strategically placed holiday sticker on each envelope.
In return we've received fourteen cards, one of which is from a tobacco company that wished us a Happy Kwanza.
If I was prone to rationalization - which normally, I am - I'd label this evidence of a dip in Christmas card giving overall, or proof of the decline of snail-mail in the internet age.
Of course that wouldn't explain why I had to wait in line at the post-office for forty minutes behind scores of people mailing their cards.
So I'm inclined to take this as a personal affront. It certainly can't be directed at my kids, not unless you know them like I do. And my wife could be the source of the boycott, if it wasn't for the fact that no one is foolish enough to cross her. Therefore, it has to be me.
And it hurts people. It does.
Oh, it's not about the cards. Truth be told I rarely read them, other than to note the sender and make sure they spelled my last name correctly (how is it that people in your own family - people that share your name, can spell it wrong every year?).
Now, I used to read them all, back when I was fresh faced and young and thought it was oh-so special to have Great Aunt Sally send you a Christmas card at your very own address.
A few years into it you notice that there are only four or five varieties of cards in circulation in any given year, each one saying the same thing. That starts the decline.
Then the fateful year comes when you look at your empty wallet and stoop to mailing out the ten-for-a-dollar cards from the discount store. You hope no one notices your shame.
Whereupon you realize that while Mom receives the top of the line cards each Yuletide, those same people annually mail you the rinky-dink single ply cards you're holding in your hands.
No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus.
But as I said it's not about the cards. It's about economics, a simple matter of exchanging value for value. If I may have a moment:
The cards themselves were on sale for perhaps a dollar each.
The stamps totaled $26.27.
The stickers really don't count, as we purchased them on triple clearance.
No such luck with the photos, which cost $50, not including the incidentals like dresses, shoes, and hair bows.
The time wasted in line at the post office? Priceless.
So, conservatively, we're looking at a total investment of around $150. That boils down to more than two bucks a person. Is it so much to ask that I get even a teensy-weensy card in return?
My wife, ever the voice of reason in things not involving Oprah or the New Kids, says I'm overreacting. According to her it's a matter of reaching out to loved ones you otherwise have no contact with to tell them "we still aren't divorced, and by the way we've bred again."
She has a point. So what if I don't get a card from five-sixths of the people I thought important enough to put on my list. It's not the end of the world, and it doesn't mean I'm not loved. I'll still send them all a card next year.
Provided they reimburse me my two bucks.