A Christmas Card Deconstructed

25/12/10 3:16 PM

With the speed and efficiency of the Internet, the tradition of handwriting and mailing Christmas cards are in decline. 

When thinking of “snail mail,”  thoughts turn to Mr. Porter.

No. Not my literature teacher in prep school  noted in a reply to a reader of Ben’s Blog.  “This” Mr. Porter was a United States Postal  Letter Carrier. He was our postman growing up in 1960s American suburbia.

Mr. Porter was the real deal. He delivered our mail in a formal US Postal Service uniform. And yes, the postman DID ring twice–if there was mail he deemed very important, and needed to be hand delivered.

I am reflecting upon a transitional time;  the nadir of the the Baby Boom era. You knew the 1950s and early 1960s were over in America when one no longer dressed in formal attire to go into the city.  So much for donning your “Sunday-best” when traveling on airplanes.  In our current era, one can attend the theater in shorts and beach flip flops—or a bathrobe. Not many bat an eye.

What I most remember about Mr. Porter was his shoes. They were spit polished shined and made from real leather; a guess size 13. Today, I do not know the names (plural) of the letter carriers who deliver my mail. They run, wearing  running shoes, to the door—then disappear. They pull up in a mini Jeep. Mr. Porter walked his entire route, start to finish.

In the 1960s, on stifling hot summer days,  my mother would invite Mr. Porter in for lemonade. In rain, it was tea and cookies; a break to dry off then continue his postal route.  In winter, a hot cup of coffee made using a percolator was the order of the day. I would fixate my eyes at the glass dome of the percolator, watching coffee bubble and hiss. Who need an X-Box or Wi-thingy when you have a coffee percolator to keep one entertained?

I don’t think mail deliverers are allowed to enter houses for  lemonade or coffee in the 21st century. I don’t think people percolate coffee. Once  Joe DiMaggio began pitching Mr. Coffee coffee makers it was “game ” for the golden age of the coffee percolator. 

This year with the encouragement of 2 of my art mentors, I entered a juried museum show, calling on noted artists to submit their handmade holiday card. Singular. Not plural. No cheating. No running to the Christmas Tree Shop, submitting something made in China—then White-Out out— “Made in China.” 

I envision poor underpaid Chinese factory workers, breathing toxic ink fumes and paper dust wondering while making billions of Christmas cards…..”Who is this baby in a stable, surrounded by wise men and animals? A future Party official?”

I painstakingly worked on my holiday card submission. When I am in my “art zone” I work slow, methodically, and focused. When I  have an artistic  vision, I do not stop until my vision comes to fruition.

I used Crane paper for the genesis of my card. Crane paper is made in Massachusetts.  It is one of our nation’s oldest paper mill. I do not want this treasured company to be on life-support during our economic depression. I support local businesses. I hope I am keeping at least one Massachusetts paper mill worker employed by using Crane paper.

I drove to Cape Cod and sourced the finest beach sand for my card. I wanted natural elements for my submission to the jury. “You-know-who” created sand.

I applied gesso to the paper, then made a batch of homemade epoxy. I added gold and silver beads into the sand mix. Then came the fun part.

I went to Stop & Shop supermarket and sourced gold American Express gift cards. The cashier was perplexed. She exclaimed “You are NOT going to activate the gift cards?”

 I replied, “No. I collect them like baseball cards—then stare at them with lust, greed, and envy.”

Behold a blank stare.

 BEEP. The cashier continued scanning my grocery order. BEEP.  Coco Puffs. BEEP. Fat-free cream. BEEP. Marshmallow Fluff. BEEP. Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Chunk Fudge ice cream. BEEP…………..

Once home, into my paper shredder went the Gold Cards. Walla! The artistic effect I had in the back of my mind came to fruition. I arranged the strips from the gold gift cards into a tree pattern. Nature personified! Behold a tree. I made sure the magnetic strips were showing, bar codes exposed, and fragments of the word American Express Gold Card were visible.

I titled my card “And Bring Him Silver and Gold.” It was an intellectual statement about materialism and Christmas. 

 I  DID pass the test. The 2 internationally known  jurors selected my card to be in the museum show.

Strange how creating a work of holiday art conjured up images of days gone by, a time when society was more formal, and when the Postman rang twice.

Sending you wishes of peace and joy on Christmas Day.

The true meaning of Christmas is not wrapped in pretty paper and adorned with ribbon. It does not come from a card made with care hanging in a famous museum. The meaning of Christmas is to reach out to others and  reflect upon who was  wrapped in swaddling clothes thousands of years ago today.  Live life not in regret-land. Be thankful for those in your life who love and care for you. Forgive. Make a new friends. Share. Love. Be kind to others, animals, and nature.  Be a champion for peace and social justice.  Merry Christmas.

Brendan Ben Feeney

451 Comments on “A Christmas Card Deconstructed”

  1. Buckholz Says:

    Wow, what a blog! I mean, you just have guts to tell it like it is. You’re what blogging needs; an open minded superhero who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. This is definitely something people need to be up on. Good luck in the future, man.