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Did you send what I sent?

A card, a card, posted in the mail

Better get one back without fail...

My mama and I had a tradition of writing Christmas cards the weekend after Thanksgiving to meet our self-imposed deadline of having every card in the mailbox come the morning of Dec. 1. My mama was a quid-pro-quo stickler when it came to Christmas cards. She kept a running tally of those persons to whom she sent cards, and she would check off the names of those who returned the favor. God help you if you didn't reciprocate.

"I didn't get a Christmas card from Marie this year. This isn't the first time that's happened. Let's see, it happened in... 1984, too," my mother would announce.

"Well, maybe she didn't send any cards this year," I'd reply.

"Lisa Lynn, you know good and well she sent cards!"

"No, I don't, and neither do you. Have you actually seen her cards?"

"No, I have not seen them, because she didn't bother to send me one."

"Maybe this attitude is why she didn't send you one. I think I might scratch you off my list."

"You can't scratch me off the list. I sent you a card. You only get kicked off the list if you don't send a card."

"Then how did Marie manage to make it to 1990 if she didn't send you a card in 1984?"

That statement usually got me "the look." If a picture is worth a thousand words, "the look" from your mother is worth a thousand pictures.

This conversation -- or some version thereof -- took place without fail every year, the weekend after Thanksgiving. Sometimes I'd remind her that I can kick anyone off my list for my own reasons, whether or not they sent me a card. Other times, I'd explain how I didn't care whether I got one card back from anyone because I sent cards to tell friends and family I was thinking of them, not to get anything in return. And a few times I'd suggest that if the process troubles her so much, she should just stop sending cards altogether.

"I'll do no such thing," she'd say. "Folks will think we're dead. If you're alive, you send Christmas cards. That's the way it is."

And indeed that's the way it was. Even after her strokes, we'd sit in her room and fill out cards. When her handwriting became poor, I'd discreetly slip a typewritten note into the envelopes, explaining that her declining health made for illegible words and that she really hadn't hoped they got a visit from Satan and wasn't wishing them a Happy New Rear. If they didn't send her a card, however, those sentiments might be spot on.

As I dropped my stack of Christmas cards into the mailbox Sunday, I smiled, knowing Mama would be proud. That is, until her knickers knotted. I added Marie back to the list.

NAN Our Town on 12/05/2019

Print Headline: Quid pro quo for cards, too

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