Another GREAT LeSueur column!
Thursday, December 09, 2010
We received our first Christmas card of the season on December 3. It was from Robert and Barbara Elton of Colorado Springs. The handwritten address on the outside of the envelope said "The LeSueur's."
Like most Christmas cards we receive, there was a form Christmas letter inside describing what the family members were all doing and included a fuzzy photo so you could kind of see what everyone looked like now.
It is easy to make fun of these Christmas letters, but I like them. Done correctly, they give me an idea of what my friends are doing, without requiring them to send fifty or more handwritten letters that say essentially the same thing. A good Christmas letter is brief and informative, describing the activities and accomplishments of the family members without bragging.
We learned that Barbara keeps busy volunteering at Church, Robert was contemplating retirement and their son Nathan just moved to Fort Collins. The actual card had a handwritten note on it saying "Let's get together this year. We come to Denver fairly often." The personal note let me know that even though the Christmas letter was impersonal, they were thinking of me. Everything about the Christmas card and letter was perfect. There was only one problem.
We have no idea who Robert and Barbara Elton of Colorado Springs are.
They have sent us a card 3 years in a row now. We thought we must know them because they spelled our name right and had our address. It's not like our last name is Smith or Johnson or something. We tried to think of all of the people we had met in the prior year who might be sending us a card. Did they sell us something during the year? Were their children friends with our children? We looked at the family photo and no one looked familiar. How did they get our name and address? Do they know another LeSueur family and picked the wrong address out of the phone book?
It's too bad I don't know them because I wanted to compliment them on their Christmas card. Letter-writing is a lost art and we should encourage people who are good at it. I understand why no one writes letters anymore. Talking on the phone is easier and more rewarding. You get immediate answers to your questions. People do write e-mails, but most e-mails are just shorthand versions of conversations. Real letters require us to think about what we are saying and how we say it.
When I left home to go to college 40 years ago, phone calls were a luxury. My parents called me once a week every Sunday evening when I was away. My dad was worried about the cost, so as soon as there was a break in the conversation that lasted more than three seconds, he would say, "Well, it was nice talking to you." I learned to talk fast to make the phone call last longer.
In college I loved checking the mail. During the week, my mother wrote me a letter which would arrive on Wednesday or Thursday. My dad always gave me a subscription to The Sporting News for Christmas and it came on Fridays.
My wife keeps in touch with a high school group through a "round robin letter" which has been going for 30 years. About once a year we receive an envelope with a letter from each of the people in the group. We remove the letter we wrote last time and replace it with a new one. Then we send the packet of letters to the next person on the list and wait for a year to receive the package again. It is a throwback to an earlier time.
So I want to encourage the Eltons from Colorado Springs. I am afraid to call them because either they will be embarrassed for sending a Christmas card to total strangers, or we will be embarrassed because we actually do know them. I guess I will send them a Christmas card so they don't take us off their list.
David LeSueur lives in Littleton, 50 miles north of the Eltons.