ALL ABOARD | Quagmire: Out of red ink with the Hallmark hotline busy

Have you noticed that the new Christmas cards are already being displayed in stores?

Or are they last year’s old ones?

Here we are, six weeks away from showtime and Christmas cards are already on the shelves at 50 percent off.

That same gimmick worked on me a year ago last October when I bought several boxes for the 2007 season.

Those cards are still in the yet to be addressed USPS priority mail box from last year, the year I was to be early sending Christmas cards.

Last October, I began my annual procrastination routine by writing the first and last names of the holiday recipients on each envelope, but without the full address.

That way I knew if I had enough cards for all the names in my address book, plus a few extra cards for forgotten folks who might surprise me with cards.

I call those turn-around cards because I only send them after I have received a card from someone I forgot to send one to.

Mother never forgot to send a card.

She had a special Hallmark Christmas address book, with little square blocks after each person’s name. If Mom received a Christmas card from someone, she put a red check mark, made with her brand new liquid red-inked Schaeffer Christmas cartridge pen, in the square box after the person’s name.

There was a square box for each year.

If a person had five empty squares after his or her name in Mom’s address book, bye-bye now.

If a person had a couple red checks followed by a couple blank years, that was OK.

With Mom, it was five strikes before you were out.

Out of her book, that is.

Last year I completed addressing cards for the A’s and B’s before I ran out of red ink.

In that one moment, ready for the C’s, but not having any backup red ink,

I completely shut down.

My emotions were shot.

Feeling inept, which I often do during the holidays, I put the red, white and blue USPS priority box back on the shelf for next year.

Thanks to the 50-percent-off signs in stores, I know that next year is now here.

After checking my slightly dusty from the wood stove priority box, I noticed several things on those incomplete cards from last year.

Some of the cards were addressed to certain employees no longer at the former employer’s address.

Some of the spouses designated on last year’s cards were no longer spouses of the former spouse.

On top of this, first-class postage, now more expensive than a 13-minute phone call anywhere in the U.S., has gone up one cent from last year.

Do they have holiday one-cent stamps to go with last year’s 41-cent Disney stamps?

What’s a guy without red ink to do?

As Homer Simpson used to say, “Quick. Somebody get me the number for 911!”

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