So long, Sid and Alma
(This column originally ran in the Press-Republican of Plattsburgh, NY, in December, 1988)
I guess I won't be hearing from Alma and Sid this year.
They've sent a card every Christmas since 1974, usually early in the season. Alma doesn't procrastinate. Their card was always one of the first to arrive.
It was never a fancy card, never sentimental or religious, usually one of those whimsical cards with Santa sunbathing by a swimming pool or the reindeer pulling his golf cart or something of the sort.
And there was never a message, just their names, in what I assumed was Alma's handwriting. For years, it was "Sid and Alma and the kids," then it was "Sid and Alma." The last couple of years, it was "Alma and Sid." A little palace revolution, perhaps.
If you're waiting for some tearjerking tale about two lonely recluses with terminal diseases, spending their last pittances to mail out holiday greetings, forget it. And I don't have a fascinating, touching story to tell of how Sid and Alma acted as parents to me at a time when I really needed an anchor in this ol' world.
Fact is, I haven't got the faintest idea of who these people are.
All I know is that, a few weeks after we moved to Colorado Springs in 1974, we got the first card, postmarked Livonia, Mich. We racked our brains, trying to think of old business contacts, friends of our parents, parents of our friends.
The only guy I knew with that last name had done time in Joliet and was wanted by the Army for desertion, and I didn't think he'd be dumb enough to change his first name and then let everyone know where he was living. Anyway, if he sent whimsical cards, it would be Santa stealing a Mercedes or something, not sunning himself by the pool.
We asked a guy with my name if they were maybe friends of his, but he didn't know any Sid and Alma, either. We let it drop.
The next year, we got another card, and we wondered if maybe we should send them a note and let them know that they apparently had the wrong Petersons and might want to check on their friends. But, we figured, the right Petersons would probably send them a card or give them a call or drop them a line sometime and then they would know.
Apparently not. The cards kept coming.
We continued to think that maybe we ought to set them straight, but by then the thing had begun to take on a bizarre fascination. How long would they continue to pump out the Christmas cards without any response?
Indefinitely, I guess. Last Christmas, my mail was still eligible for forwarding from Colorado Springs, since I had been here just a shade under six months. Sure enough, Alma and Sid's card came through, with a notation from the Postal Service suggesting I advise my correspondents of my correct address.
I didn't, of course. We had decided a long time ago that it would be cheating to encourage them in their spendthrift ways.
But I would like to be a fly on the wall in Livonia, Mich., when this year's card comes back to them, and Sid asks Alma, "Who the heck are the Petersons, anyway?"