The changing peculiarities of Christmas took a turn for the absurd this year. But before getting into that let me recount what happened the other day when I showed my fifteen-year-old son a letter we had received from a cousin of mine who lives in Holland. It was one of those what-happened-last-yearletters. The kind I had always complained about, especially to those who thought it was a good idea.
I had often declared, self-righteously: “When I receive an envelope addressed to me with the return address of someone I know on the corner, I don't expect to find a copy of a proclamation to many, myself included. Not only I don't expect it, I don't want to accept it. If someone doesn't value our relationship that much that they don't feel they have the time to write a few personal words, even for that once a year, then, frankly, I'd rather not hear from them!”
Well, for the first time I thought that maybe, in some cases, it's not at all that bad an idea. And while not being quite conscious of this admission, I showed my son the letter. Crimping his forehead, he handed the paper back and said, “This is impersonal. Is this what most people do?” “Not all,” I replied,”but my cousin did include a separate card wishing us four, a merry Christmas.” “Oh,” he responded, “that makes it okay I guess.”
So far no big deal. Right?
Now you may have experienced this, too, where one notices that every year there are a few defectors from Noruz to Christmas — the gradual giving in to the rhythm of life in this country. Convenience, I suppose is the main reason some eventually give up on Noruz.
When I receive a Christmas card from someone who, up to now, had sent Noruz greetings, I feel myself in a quandary of sorts. Should I just add their name to my Christmas list? Or should I wait and respond at Noruz as always? If I do that, won't I be intimating something like: “Shame on you. I'm not like you. I remember Noruz”?
Maybe I should send best wishes for both occasions? Forget about overkill, how will the friend feel? Should I care how the friend feels? God, you can go nuts trying to figure out the best way to hang on to something from the past that still has meaning for you but not much for another. Did I just answer my own question?
By now I had gotten rather used to being faced with that particular problem. But something else has happened this year which has completely baffled me: I received cards from three people who, up to now, had never sent me any. First, from an uncle who practically lives next door and we see often, then from a cousin in Los Angeles, who is closer than a sister to me, and from another whom I'm on the phone with regularly.
No one sends cards to people they are living with, or are almost living with, right? It's sort of stupid. So what gives? Check this out: This year I got a card from my mother! And I talk to her every day. When I asked her why, she answered, “I liked the cute kitty on the card.” Whew!
When I finished sharing all of my confusion and frustration with another cousin who is a particularly sympathetic and supportive person and who happens to be living with us at this time, he reacted with a smile and said, “I'm afraid I just sent you a Christmas card too.”