A few weeks ago, I received a Christmas card that wasn’t meant for me. Of course I opened it. The card, which was addressed to Ruth, ended with the following in pen:
Hope all is okay.”
I just so happened to know the current whereabouts of Ruth, so I took the liberty to write a reply:
Thanks for your concern. I am currently quite dead, as I have been for the past four and a half years.
See you in hell.
Ruth, who used to own our house, died in early 2005. Since then, this address changed hands twice. The stock market tanked, and America elected its first black president. Giant spiders took over Toledo, Ohio, but agreed to leave in exchange for $47 and the gift of love. News travels slowly in Indiana, especially after those spiders knocked out Internet service to much of the Midwest, but Mary’s error is still inexcusable for anyone of sound mind. I’m guessing the two cousins are about the same age, however, so it’s not a stretch to think Mary may just be too senile to remember our home’s former owner is dead. Out of sensitivity to Mary’s potentially confused mental state, I tore up the first draft of my response and wrote a second, more eloquent missive:
All is indeed well. I still spend my days playing Sudoku and hijacking mail trucks. At night, I sip brandy and wrestle Bangalore Tigers. It’s just like we when we were girls, which I no longer am. The operation was a success – or a failure depending on which side you were rooting for. I told the FBI about the cocaine I hid in your attic. It’s in between the Christmas tree and the ten-foot-tall aluminum penis statue you bought from that homeless Indian in Rhodesia. Please send me some tuna.
I look forward to further correspondence with my new pen pal. I don’t have many other people to write to. I received only two other Christmas cards, both from actual cousins of mine. One of them misspelled my first name, which is only three letters long. We’ve been in the same family for twenty-four years, which is like eight years per letter. Whoever lives in this house next will be getting Christmas cards from that cousin many, many years after I’m dead.
Cousins aren’t the only ones who forget to update their mailing lists. An east coast club yacht club still sends a news letter to my parents’ house every year, even though the person they’re trying to reach died in 1968. Somebody must have made an error when uploading the club’s membership logs to a computer, but that doesn’t make the annual automated greetings they send out any less special:
“Dear Rich Henderson,
The Massachusetts Yacht Club congratulates you on your 122nd birthday. Please enjoy this five-dollar gift certificate to Long John Silver’s.”
I avoid such embarrassing mistakes by refusing to mail letters or cards for any occasion, unless of course that occasion is harassing an old woman who made the mistake of sending me a Christmas card intended for the dead. If I feel nostalgic for an outdated form of communication, I skip the postal service. Instead of the mail man, I use carrier pigeons, and instead of letters I send high-powered firecrackers with lit fuses. For those times when an impersonal e-card simply won’t do, you can always get your message across with random acts of animal cruelty.
Even if I had the desire to send traditional holiday cards, I don’t have anything worthwhile to write in them. The exciting story of how I almost pooped my pants after eating at Chili’s is fine material for this website but is somewhat less appropriate for a Christmas card someone plans to hang on the wall by their nativity scene. Besides, several of my relatives already read this website, which is probably why I don’t receive more Christmas cards. It’s hard to justify spending seventy-five cents to stay in touch with the nephew who tells elaborate stories about his bowel control issues.
Many people use Christmas cards to brag about their accomplishments from the year. If I did send Christmas cards, I’d have to embellish a lot because the actual list of what I did in the last 365 days looks rather unimpressive:
“Dear Relative Who is Not Dead,
I haven’t changed jobs, houses, or spouses in the past year, but I do drink more and work less. I also fall asleep a little earlier and wake up a little later every day. When those two points meet in the middle, I’ll officially be in a coma. I doubt reaching such a state will adversely affect my productivity at work. I spend most days writing harassing letters to my pen pal, who is eighty years old and has Alzheimer’s. I actually just send her the same letter over and over again. She has yet to notice. For a while, I thought I developed a pickle allergy, but I’m starting to suspect I just bought a bad jar. I plan to eat some more pickles tonight to find out for sure. I’ll let you know how it turns out in next year’s card.”
Even mundane lives deserve cliff hangers. They also deserve controversy. Instead of a family photo, I’d include a pickle so each relative could weigh in on the allergy versus good-food-gone-bad debate. A pickle in a paper envelope likely doesn’t stay edible for long, so I’m guessing the food poisoning argument would carry the day. The net result of a seasonal greeting card from me would likely be boredom and vomiting, which tends to be my natural reaction this time of year anyway. My system doesn’t respond well to this whole peace-on-earth and goodwill-toward-men situation.
Fortunately for my friends and relatives, this Christmas card season has already come to a close, so everyone is safe until next year – except for Ruth’s cousin Mary. I plan to start sending her untimely Christmas cards and spoiled food immediately, in keeping with the spirit of the season. It’s what Jesus would have wanted.