Junk Cheer

May 8, 2009

5 min read


If unwanted mail is "Junk Mail," I've coined a phrase for unwanted holiday cards -- "Junk Cheer."

I recently got a "Holiday" Card in the mail. It was from my plumber. It read, "May Your Holiday be filled with Cheer and bring you toilets that are clear ... BUT IF NOT, CALL VITO AT 555-CLOG." What's worse, Vito didn't even send me a calendar this year.

Which brings me to a seasonal gripe. Junk cheer.

This year we received 57 missives. Eight were from people we actually know, and 49 were from people who want to know us -- through the magic of medical plans, aluminum siding, or debt consolidation. My family insists we hang them so we look popular, even though a card from Mutual of Medicare isn't quite a Hallmark moment.

A card from Mutual of Medicare isn't quite a Hallmark moment.

Worse, are the family portrait-hyphen-biography "cards." Don't get me wrong. I like "catching up" with friends, and those with whom I share a strand of DNA. I'm glad to read that Cousin Freda's finally got those braces off and can eat solids for the first time in three years. Ditto for any pal whose year involved either an audience with Barbra Streisand or a jail sentence. A short snappy "biopic" of up to four lines from people I actually know, are fine.

Five? You're a bore or an ego-maniac.

The Bibbikins (I'm disguising their real name) are both. I met them at a 1989 lecture on Israeli archeology. Yet every year, I get a photo documentary on "The Bibbikins." I've seen shorter travel logs. This year I was treated to their tour of a dairy farm in Vilnius.

"How could you possibly be bored?!" asks my son, incredulous – the one who thinks Innovations in Butter Churning should be on the check-out line next to the Inquirer.

"Maybe I'm shallow," I say, as I shove "The Bibbikins" into my "special" file folder. No, not the round one with the little mustard packets – and string.

Then, there are the ones that come from Ira. He's a writer pal who can actually pay his bills and have enough left over to send these evil cards. I call him "Itinerary Ira" because I know (and see) where he's been for the last 51 weeks, and where's he's going for the next 51. None of which involves dropping in on me.

"Wow! Looks like Ira's got a meeting with Speilberg on the 25th!"

"Big deal. I've got one with my plumber on the fifth," I answer.

"You're just jealous!"

"True. My plumber's harder to reach than Speilberg."

To their credit, at least "The Bibbikens" and Ira limit their pictorials to the immediate family.

The Messling's missive looks like the Zoa tribe.

The Messling's missive looks like the Zoa tribe. My college anthropology professor studied fewer generations than they send on their holiday cards. To make matters worse, there's a summary of every Messling's accomplishments on the back of their photo-journal. First up, Martin Messling (named CEO – by old man Messling), sitting next to step-sister Myrna Messling (who just launched Messlingers magazine), who is holding grand-twins, Morganna and Malthus (who just learned to burp themselves), who are the children of -- but you get my point.

Sadly, I have more photos of the Messlings than I have of my own son.

Now, you could say, "C'mon, just toss the itineraries, the biographies, and the photo libraries into that "circular file folder." Ah...But therein lies my problem.

I can't.

My Jewish guilt has made me shredding-challenged. Believe me, I've tried. Oh yes. I've rounded up all these families of strangers, cut them in two, stuck them in a baggie, and deposited these bores and their heirs in the bin.

But then, in the middle of the night, I got up, sweating, and tiptoed into the garbage – to scotch tape little Morganna and Malthus Messling back together.

Why? Because they were nice enough to send them? Wrong.

Because maybe they'll call -- or some terrible curse shall befall them. Two little Messlings ... gone! Zapped into the Twilight Zone because I ripped them up!

So, I've finally given in.

Instead of stashing the holiday cards and biopics this year, I've decided they're "art." That empty wall in the hall I was saving for a Chagall (OK, print) is now filled. With 11 pictures of "us" – and 89 of "them." As for the rest? I bought color-coordinated albums. I'm going with mahogany for "The Bibbikens," and I was thinking deep purple with a gold border for the Messlings.

I've even forgiven my plumber for not sending a calendar. The way I see it, at least he didn't send a fruitcake.

Or a holiday pictorial of 20 VITOS "unclogging" on their way through Sicily.

FOR THE PERFECT HOLIDAY GIFT(S) DON'T SEND A CARD. Send instead, A CALENDAR! Marnie Winston-Macauley's award-winning "A Little Joy, A Little Oy" calendar (2009), and "Yiddishe Mamas: The Truth About the Jewish Mother." Both of which can be purchased at your bookstore or online on Amazon.

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