Last year I received one Christmas card, from a mortgage company. It showed Santa lowering himself down the chimney, presumably to foreclose. Other than that, there was just the funeral home calendar—the one with the mortuary that looks like a branch bank shrouded in snow with the sentimental reminder: “There when you need us/’
This year, since I haven’t thrown any business either way, I’m not expecting any season’s greetings. Starting right after Thanksgiving, I go out of my way to alienate anyone even suspected of harboring my name on a Christmas card list. The campaign has proved so effective, I believe I have reached the point of no return.
Christmas, traditionally, is a trying time of year for me, and was even when I was a kid. First, we had a false fireplace. Second, we were Jewish. Even if Santa had successfully broken and entered, he would never have gotten past my mother. We did receive our fair share of Christmas cards, but most were from my father the C.P.A.’s clients: Blue Island Slag and Smelting, A. Bass Scrap Metal (“Season’s Greetings—Top Prices Paid”), and, my personal favorite, Muskego Rendering, which each year sent out a snowy rendition of the plant with the legend, “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”
Still, the highlight of the season was always the mystery card. Every year my parents got a card from “Sid.” Always the same card, noel with each letter on a globe ornament hanging from a disembodied fir bough, like White Fang’s limb as it reached for Soupy Sales. Inside the card was Merry Christmas in seven popular tongues over a skating rink. It was signed simply, “Sid,” in quotes. Nobody claimed to know “Sid/’ or anyone “Sid” may have stood for, and it was a seasonal bone of contention between Mom and Dad for years until “Sid” slid into the protected realm of folklore like Elijah, the invisible Passover guest.
This year, if all goes as planned, not even “Sid” will be able to track me down. It’s just not in the cards; although you never know. They say the “Sids” of the father are sometimes visited on the son.