Vol. 4, Issue 8, December 12, 2006
Dr. Watson Cures All.
The Bentinel

The Christmas Card Conundrum

Ezekiel F. Watley, Esq.

The wondrous Snap of a crisp December day is an invigorating pre-holiday Tonic: it is a Pleasure indeed to traipse through the snow-covered Streets to the office, well-bundled in Topcoat, Muffler and warmest Gloves, there to divest oneself of the cold-weather gear and warm up before the Fire. On such days a dram or three of Tobermory single malt may find its way into that first pot of excellent Coffee, the better to instill Vigor in a wintry morning.

There are of course many Seasonal tasks to be undertaken at such a time, beneath the watchful gaze of the Watley family nutcracker atop the Mantel. Not least of these is the completion of one's Christmas Cards. Though the epistolary art is part of my normal Routine (my correspondence generally takes up the entire Morning) there is a special Art to the Christmas Card, which is not at all the same beast as a Letter. It involves a measure of Artistic, Social, and - yes - Legal acumen quite distinct from that of the ordinary letter.

The artistic part comes in selecting a suitable Card to begin with. Now, I have always been fond of the Chelsea-Birmingham cards so popular around the turn of the Century; their distinguished Victorian cherubs were delightfully balanced with a quietly solemn Psalm, graced with a hint of Bristol lace around the edge of the thick, textured, eggshell-colored Cardstock. A quality card, that was! Regrettably, the Chelsea-Birmingham presses were destroyed in the war, and I used up my last supply some years ago. Most fortunately, we are in possession of our own Printing-Presses, and so are able to create our Own. However, after my nephew showed me his design for a "Modern Cherub", apparently modeled by his paramour of the Moment, I decided to go with the Christmas-tree motif instead (there are Decency laws in this state, you know; the dear thing must have been Freezing in this December weather in that outfit.)

The necessary Social acumen comes into play as one writes card after Card to friends, family, and Acquaintances alike. Being possessed of a stubborn Work-ethic, I make it a point to inscribe each card with its own Message suitable to the Recipient; my pen moves Feverishly between ink-pot and Card, my blotter is sorely Exercised by this Herculean task. What mode of Address to use? Dear sir or Madam? Titles (real and Aspired to) - your Eminence, Colonel, Herr Doktor? Christian names? Old school Nick-names? Homeric epithets? Ware the weary writer on his hundredth Card who mistakenly uses an overly Familiar term with the Tobacconist's wife: the holidays are stressful Enough without such theatrical Misunderstandings. I also provide a bit of Information on myself, omitting of course the hopefully Obvious fact that I am still numbered among the Living (though there was that gentleman who arranged for his Solicitor to continue sending Holiday Cards for years after his demise; most disconcerting, and a practice I shall certainly Not undertake myself).

Last come the Legal considerations, which are especially important when a substantial portion of one's Clientele is incarcerated. My years of Service as a Public Defender have left me with a wide web of contacts currently residing in secure dwellings at the State's expense. The lace must be Carefully trimmed from these cards, as it can be fashioned into a series of unsuitable Implements; and one must always prepare for the certainty that the Guards shall be reading the card as well, and possibly a Grand Jury down the line. Caution indeed!

It takes a Week and a few bottles of Tobermory, but at last I complete writing the cards to all three hundred and Eleven people on my list. I am Astonished as always to reach the end of the Pile, and indeed find myself scrawling a message to Captain Haddock on my Blotter before realizing that no more Cards remain.

My nephew finds my Holiday card routines Risible, preferring to send his Own friends and family mimeographed Wish-Lists in place of a card. But for all that my Hand is tired (and my Dart game suffers for weeks afterwards) and my Eyes a bit bleary, I find this chore a Blessing; for the very size of my list is testimony to the number of people whose lives I have been privileged to share, and to the good Fortune I have had in meeting friends. With any luck, next year I shall have three hundred and Twelve people to write. One can only hope.


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