(This posting is with kudos to Monty for giving me the idea, if even unknowingly. In Feb. 2005, I posted "A Second Language," about receiving a letter. I have retrieved the original posting and in turn have revamped it to reflect receiving a Christmas card. For your approval I submit: " Christmas Cards From The Edge.")
The other day when I came home from work, my wife handed me an envelope. Incredibly, upon it there was actual hand writing and a stamp had been applied in the corner of it. My name and address, as well as those of the sender, had actually been placed upon the envelope manually with a pen! It had been many years since I had seen anything like it. For as long as I can remember, what physical mail we did receive, mostly bills and statements, had been neatly printed mechanically with metered postage. This was no bill. This was no statement.
....Hefting it in my hand testing its weight, I marveled at the relic. Possibly, this unique item should be saved as a potential collectible. I held it up the light trying to peer inside at the contents. What mysteries might this paper enclosure hold? The sheer simplicity of the small rectangular object left me to wonder why anyone would go to such lengths to send me something through the U.S. Postal Service. What would possess them to take on the expense of purchasing a stamp?
....The advent of the personal computer as a household appliance had rendered letters virtually obsolete. Indeed, as a species, the mail-carrier was nearly extinct. This archaic form of communication had come to be known as snail mail. Forsaking stationery, pens, and postage stamps, we turned in droves to the promises of high speed electronic mail. Even us Baby Boomers, who were hesitant to buy into the technology, have ultimately embraced e-mail and instant messaging. To the surprise of no one, we even figured out that chatting live could actually save us money on long distance phone calls. It was not lost on us either that there was the added bonus of no postage.
....I felt like a kid opening a birthday present, anticipating the treasure about to be unearthed. As I turned the envelope over in my hand exposing the sealed flap on the reverse side, I swallowed hard and took a deep breath. I realized there must have been some urgency in the sender's reasoning for contacting me in such an odd manner.
....The antique letter opener sliced through the paper methodically, like a knife through a frozen margarine quarter. The contents, a colorful object, appeared to be made of some kind of stiff paper. Ah, a rare document? Closer inspection, however, revealed the paper to be an ancient greeting card, albeit rarely seen in this day and age. Unfolding the pages, I slowly began to scan them. I don't know if at that moment I was quite prepared for what I would find.
....It was indeed a greeting card. I was stunned to see structured complete sentences. Some were pre-printed in a form of a rhyme, and you're not going to believe this, others were actually written in long hand with a pen. Amazingly, everyone of those sentences began with a capital letter! There was an incredible array of punctuation. I guess what impressed me most, was that all of the text was comprised of words, and believe it or not, spelled correctly. I considered looking for double negatives or dangling participles, but judging from everything else, that would have probably proven fruitless.
....Having bridged the gap from the dark ages of remoteless television sets to the current era of high-tech wizardry, I was fortunate. Others might have had to hire an etymologist, and maybe even an anthropologist, to assist them in their attempts at translation.
....Imagine their chagrin to discover that the cryptic "How are you," would be unraveled to be the more familiar "How R U." Not unlike the Egyptologists, who thanks to the Rosetta Stone, were able to decipher the hieroglyphics, I slowly translated what could become a sought after relic. I made a mental note to look up the Smithsonian's telephone number. In olden times, they actually used massive tomes that contained the listings of telephone numbers. They had to literally dial those numbers on an analog phone.
....I know, because I remember those crude devices. I had read and written documents like the one I was holding. As I continued to scan and translate the passages, I was almost stumped when I came across "anyone." Eventually, and then only by taking it in context, was I able to arrive at "NE1." I'll bet many a jaw dropped out there on that one. Mine surely did.
....Suffice it to say, I did eventually complete the translation of the document. I have decided not to contact the Smithsonian Institute after all. This relic, instead will grace a wall in my study. It will become an heirloom that I will pass on to my daughter for her to pass along to her children.
....Until that day comes, however, I will take pride in having it. As will I also be proud to be one of a few who can claim to be multi-lingual. I have a second language. In addition to cyberese, I am fluent in English - written English.
I will reveal part of what I read on that card, but to avoid trouble with the Politically Correct Police Force, it will be brief. I caution you to please not to gasp aloud, lest you draw the attention of the PCPF.
....The card wishes me a "Merry Christmas" - please, I asked you not to gasp aloud. Shh! I know, and you know, that we must refer to it as "Holiday," nowadays.
....Aren't we all part of an undergroud movement to keep traditions alive? To most of us, it will always be a Christmas tree - not a holiday tree. Most of us still remember the true meaning of this time of the year. Despite what their sermons preach, I will not pray to "Our Lord, Wal-Mart." Dare I say that their sermons used to be called commercials? 'Tis blasphemy, I know, I know. I still believe that The Magi were three kings from the East, and not those three monkeys who cover respectively their ears, eyes and mouth.
....Perhaps a pipe dream, I hope not, we can all gather the courage to send Christmas cards to our friends and relatives. Perhaps the one I have received will not be a relic or a collectible item.