From Candida Mannozzi. You can reach her at [email protected].
Borderstan, it’s that time of the year. We’re out there, shopping for food, for ornaments, for tokens for our co-workers, and gifts for friends and family. This general atmosphere generated the thought for this piece, which came to me as I was chatting with my friend Frank.
He and I exchange cards this time of year. Yes, we’re among those dinosaurs who still, on occasion, put actual pen to paper and use the U.S. Postal Service to get the product from one home to the other. (Don’t get me started on our local post office closings!)
Back to the chat with Frank: I received his card in the mail the other day. Well, not all of it. I received a torn envelope with the card missing and an accompanying note from the Postal Service, apologizing for the damage done to the missive. I was crushed! Frank’s card was lost! He picks really cool, inventive, artsy cards every year: they are usually great examples of pop-outs, paper-art… you get the idea, yes?
So, I was truly disappointed not to get Frank’s choice for this year!
I sent him an email thanking him for his card and explaining the mishap with it. He called me later and it turns out I’m not the only friend of his who didn’t get this year’s fancy paper-art card. We concluded there must have been a design flaw to it, probably the choice of envelopes, which were not sturdy enough to safely contain the pop-out card weighing more than the regular ones.
“I see these different, beautiful cards each year, and over time I’ve been choosing fancier and fancier ones. That’s it. I’m done with the top-of-the-line cards.”
I agreed with him, even though I was sorry not to have seen the fanciest pop-out card he’s chosen yet.
“Hey, but at least you got the envelope and you had proof that I was thinking of you and that I wanted to reach out to you, right?”
Indeed. Absolutely on the money. And that’s when the thought occurred to me and I told Frank the clichéd phrase: “Hey, man, less is more.” Maybe next year he’ll skip the top-of-the-line card, and send a less fancy one, since the sentiment he wishes to share is the essential part of the whole exercise.
This episode reminded of one of my favorite illustrated books: Patrick McDonnell’s “The Gift of Nothing,” the story of a little cat Mooch wanting to get his buddy, Earl, something for the holidays and observing people saying there’s “nothing” on TV and “nothing” in the stores, and “nothing” to do… so in the end Mooch finds an empty box, wraps it in a bow and Earl exclaims with delight when he opens it. The book ends with a drawing of the two of them sitting side-by-side at the window after playing with the empty box, looking out onto a starry sky, happy for the gift of nothing, “… and everything.”
So, this holiday season I wish all of us a bit less of the frills, frippery and add-ons, giving us a chance to enjoy the underlying more.