Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Cards & Notes & Such

When I was a kid, here's what I hated about Christmas (not counting my certainty that my brothers' presents were better than mine--hey, I am the Middle Child--I have a syndrome named for me!): writing Christmas cards.

I hated wrapping, too--but that's another story.

Oh, hell, I'll say a little about it. When I was student teaching (11th graders, West Geauga HS, Jan-March (?) 1966), my supervising teacher (in those days very appropriately called a "critic teacher") introduced me to a concept he called "the tyranny of the weak." (Don't know if it originated with him. Probably not.) He told me that in just about any group, the "strong" have to do more work because the "weak" either can't or won't.

It's kind an offensive social theory, but I found that it worked beautifully with wrapping Christmas presents. I was so bad that my mother would stop me and do it herself. While I feigned dismay.

Anyway, Mom and Dad (I say "Dad," but he was not really in the forefront of this) would give us some cards and some addresses and set us to work. I can't in all honesty say that my messages were very festive--more perfunctory, if not rude, is more accurate.

But even worse? The thank-you notes we had to write after Christmas (and birthdays). One of our Christmas "gifts," in fact was always a little set of cards, each of which bore the message, often in gold script: Thank You!

My mother was not amused when I suggested that all I needed to do is, you know, sign the card, for the message was on the front for all to see!

So ... we either went to our rooms and wrote them and then gave the little bundle to Mom. Or if we were dilatory (hmmmm ... who could that be?), we had to sit at the dining room table and not arise--bladder issues or no--until we'd finished.

This technique, by the way--the sit-there-until-you-do-X--was common practice. My older brother, Richard, who despised green peas, speaks with pride to this day--well over a half-century later--of the time when he sat at the table until bedtime, his green peas untouched. Score one for intransigence.

I couldn't stand lima beans but had not yet honed the Martyr Complex practiced then by my brother. I could not eat them. But I also didn't want to sit there at the table until I fully understood that there were "starving children in China" (give them all the damn lima beans, then!).

And so I "took" the lima beans like pills--swallowed them whole like large green aspirin with gulps of milk.

(By the way, there was also a no-dessert-until-you-clean-up-your-plate commandment in our home.)

So ... the thank-you notes. I'm afraid that I remained my perfunctory self--writing as little as I thought I could get away with (Mom checked our texts--for length, for sincerity, for solecisms).

Dear Grandma,

Thank you so much for the package of thank-you notes. You can see that I am using them! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.



The whole thank-you-note thing has sort of evanesced, at least in our experience. We still have a few (older) friends who continue the practice. Joyce still does it with a devotion and regularity that shame me. Deeply shame me. Though not enough that I'm going to sit down at the dining room table and crank them out.

I send a few Christmas cards, mostly to family and people I've always sent them to--like an old college roommate. But mostly I do the grim thing my mother would not approve of: sending them only to folks who sent me a card.

And there are fewer and fewer of those.

Wonder why?

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