Snow: Off the cliff with thank you notes

January 19, 2013 

Say you’re in the shower, wearing your “soap on a rope”Christmas gift from Aunt Bessie. Suddenly, you realize it’s mid-January and you haven’t written to thank her for this lovely gift, although you did acknowledge it at the family get together.

Ah, those pesky post-Christmas thank you notes! With all the other reforms going on – health care, gun control, fiscal cliff and so on – isn’t it time to revise the thank-you protocol?

In our family, when a Christmas gift is opened, it’s usually admired and commented on: “Just what I needed” or “How did you know?”

The recipient then rushes across the room to hug and perhaps kiss the giver on the cheek. If it’s a gift you really like and use, you might comment on it from time to time during the ensuing year. Shouldn’t that be enough?

Yet soon after Christmas, my wife spent hours, uncomplainingly, writing thank-you notes (actually more like letters than notes) in keeping with protocol.

Good news, folks. I’ve just checked the website of the late Emily Post, once the high priestess of protocol. Here’s her Emancipation Proclamation from mandatory post-holiday notes: “The rule of thumb is that you should send a written note any time you receive a gift and the giver wasn’t there to thank in person.”

Furthermore, according to Post, if the gift is from a close friend or relative (and it’s not a wedding gift), it’s OK to telephone or e-mail your thanks.

When I shared the information with my wife, she kept writing, noting, “It’s still good manners to write a thank-you.”

As the song from “Fiddler on the Roof” says, “Tradition! Tradition! Tradition!”

Tasting winter

We have tasted winter, and it’s no sweeter than it ever was, although Southern winters are comparatively gentle.

Around our house, the ancient oaks, finally leafless, reveal their infirmities. Gnarled and stooped with age, they resemble naked old men stepping from the bathtub.

Their nudity reveals the dark clumps of squirrel nests. Here in the peak mating month, squirrels are up there making babies with me in mind. Hunters, man your stations!

Winter is fireplace time. Even gas-fire logs can bring cheer to a room. True, there’s nothing as heart-warming as a crackling blaze of firewood that, when lit, sends bugs racing across the hearth to escape the heat.

I remember from childhood how my mother would heat flat irons on the hearth, wrap them in towels and send us off to bed in the unheated upstairs rooms, where we’d tuck the improvised heaters at our feet.

I’m comforted by poet Percy Bysshe Shelley’s promise “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”

Shining shoes

I was brushing my shoes for an outing, when it crossed my mind: Whatever happened to the shoe-shine stands that once dotted downtown and other public places?

A friend who wore size 14 shoes once recalled a long-ago time when he put his feet on a shine rack in the old Sir Walter Hotel on Fayetteville Street.

The shoeshine man looked at the two huge feet and said: “Not for a dime, mister. Anybody who would shine them shoes for a dime would paint a house for a dollar!”

Blaming the prez

The most popular political pastime during the past year seems to have been blaming President Barack Obama for everything that went wrong with the country.

As any president soon learns, criticism comes with the job.

It’s said that while President Ronald Reagan was in office, a friend sent him a newspaper clipping in which a California state senator charged that illegitimate births by teenage mothers had increased alarmingly while Reagan was in office.

The affable Reagan, known for his quips, replied, “I’ve never felt so young and virile.”

Snow: 919-836-5636 or

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