Ants decided to set up a colony in our family’s mailbox last summer.
Their choice was mystifying. The arch-shaped postal receptacle contained no food. Maybe they saw it as a shelter or some sort of entomological nightclub. Their invasion was disturbing, yet fun in an unusual way. The ants made opening the mailbox door an adventure again. We’d spray bug killer, and they’d disappear for a while. A few days later, we’d pull the door and find the ants were back, swarming the envelopes inside like a scene from “The Mummy.”
These days, trips to the mailbox lack the sense of anticipation baby boomer kids felt while awaiting the delivery of teeth-blackening chewing gum, ordered from the back pages of a comic book. Instead, the daily assortment of mail typically consists of bills, credit-card solicitations and ad fliers. Handwritten letters and postcards are being replaced by Facebook and Twitter updates, e-cards, text messages and Skype chats.
Thus, nobody runs to the mailbox anymore, unless they get some strange thrill from being identified as “current resident.”
But all of that changes during the holidays. The ants disappear in the cold, and — more importantly — Christmas cards brighten up the mail.
Some contain a short greeting, handwritten or professionally printed, or merely a signature below a Hallmark poem. Others include a personal letter, recapping the sender’s past year. A few are “corporate cards,” like those sent by company underlings in the name of Clark Griswold’s cranky boss in “Christmas Vacation.” The most entertaining Christmas cards, though, feature a family photo.
Those pictures — and all of the drama required to arrange them — often earn a spot in the American household museum, the refrigerator door. E-cards can’t match that.
“It’s a fleeting moment when it’s electronic, and it’s a keepsake when it’s a hard-copy,” said Mic Orman, who’s processed and snapped photos for 32 years in Terre Haute.
The value of such a real, ink-and-paper, original Christmas card seems to be re-emerging in 2011 after a decline last year. Orman said customers at his photo shop, Mic’s Pics on Wabash Avenue, are bringing in more photos to adorn holiday greeting cards this season than in 2010, at least at this point. That trend follows a national survey, too.
Sixty-three percent of people surveyed by online marketing firms Zoomerang and Vistaprint said they intend to mail hard-copy Christmas and holiday cards. Of those folks, 66 percent plan to send more physical cards than they did last year, according to the poll. Seventy-four percent figure they won’t use e-cards this time. Likewise, the U.S. Postal Service estimates it will deliver 16.5 billion cards, letters and packages during the Thanksgiving-to-New-Year’s-Day period, an increase from 15.8 billion last year.
That return to tradition may be more sentimental than financial.
“I’m not sure that the economy’s any better,” Orman said, “but so many people missed [sending out cards] last year, they’re going back to it this year.”
Yes, Virginia, there is a recession. And, yes, old-school cards, photo processing and stamps cost more than an email or a Facebook posting. But tangible items, especially in this here-today-gone-tomorrow culture, are worth a couple extra bucks. (It’s not a fortune. Half of the people surveyed by Zoomerang estimated they’d spend $25 or less on their Christmas greetings.)
The extra time involved pays off, too. Including a photo with a Christmas card takes time. And patience. Kids may not all want to smile at the same time. The family may not be in the mood for Sunday-best clothes and trying to get the family dog to pose. A little advice from Orman: Don’t be so formal. Try something usual. Let kids react naturally. “Be creative,” Orman said of choosing the right atmosphere. “Go to your favorite family spot. It’s all about the expressions.”
Your favorite vacation picture from last summer might work, especially in the dead of winter when sunshine and heat seem like Aesop’s fables. “It’s a great way to say, ‘This is us on the beach in July — merry Christmas,’” Orman said.
A cool, reversed twist on the “Christmas in July” concept. The card’s recipients might be envious. Then again, an ocean-side Christmas card from a cousin or a friend sure beats a mailbox full of utility bills or ants.
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Ants decided to set up a colony in our family’s mailbox last summer.
- Local & Bistate
The St. Ben's Community Festival kicked off Friday night and continues from 5 .p.m until midnight today.
Adding to the mix
The mix of local food choices will get a fresh stir in the near future, as a café opens a second location, a pizza place moves downtown and a national chain sprouts in two more spots.
Shift from jets to intelligence
Loud, impressive fighter jets once zoomed regularly across the sky in Terre Haute, their roars drowning out the sounds of televisions and telephones all around the area.
Candidates’ views clash over more education testing, vouchers
Indiana needs to change direction to improve education, said Democrat Jim Mann, who will face incumbent Rep. Robert Heaton, R-Terre Haute, in a rematch race for Indiana House District 46.
Fraudulent checks with an extra ‘t’
A Terre Haute woman who received a large check in the mail this week wants to warn others that though the check looks legitimate, it is a scam.
Truck, van collide, stopping some U.S. 41 lanes for an hour
Northbound traffic on U.S. 41 south of Terre Haute was blocked for about one hour Friday because of a two vehicle crash.
Indianapolis closing nightlife street on weekends
Indianapolis officials will close the main street through a nightlife district to motor vehicles on Friday and Saturday nights to reduce violence there.
Man revives 3-year-old who was face down in pool
Authorities in central Indiana say a man revived his 3-year-old son after spotting the boy face down in an apartment complex pool.
Vigo County Jail Log: July 11, 2014
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Thursday and Friday, based on jail records.
New exhibits set to open at Red Skelton museum
VINCENNES (AP) — Events are being planned for the opening of new exhibits at the museum celebrating the career of the late comedian Red Skelton in his southwestern Indiana hometown.
10 Things to Know for Friday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:
Mayor: City will not file bankruptcy
The Terre Haute City Council took well more than an hour to ask questions and discuss the health of the city’s finances with top city officials in a special meeting Thursday night. A few councilmen expressed grave concern about the financial picture, while Mayor Duke Bennett said things were improving.
State official threatens prosecution of city leaders who talk about audit
A state official has threatened to pursue the prosecution of city officials if they violate a confidentiality agreement signed last month.
ISU, 181st Intelligence Wing show off capabilities at expo
Communication and getting unmanned eyes in the sky can be vital parts of responding to a natural or man-made disaster.
Feds relent: Military to restore equipment program for fire departments
An agreement has been reached to keep surplus military equipment rolling into rural fire department bays in Indiana and 47 other states.
UW kicks off pilot campaign
Dottie King remembers the day she saw a young man leaving St. Ann’s Dental Clinic after having 17 teeth pulled. He had not received sufficient dental care before that day so his need was dramatic. That was unlike King, who had visited the dentist regularly since childhood, but still found getting a tooth filled not on her list of fun things to do. “I thought to myself, ‘I never have thought about the blessing of dental care,’” King recalled, sharing that story on Thursday morning with other volunteers for the United Way of the Wabash Valley.
Indiana’s director of homeland security sees unmanned systems’ potential
Integrating unmanned flight systems into use for domestic surveillance can provide first responders with key information in responding to fires, earthquakes and man-made disasters, said John Hill, director of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.
Stunt performer scheduled to be at Wigwam
A celebrity stunt man named Jim “Crash” Moreau is scheduled to perform at Terre Haute’s Wigwam Skate and Event Center on Saturday.
Rain barrels offered for sale
The Vigo County Soil and Water Conservation District is taking orders for 55-gallon rain barrels.
Tips lead to meth lab bust
Two people were arrested after police busted a clandestine methamphetamine lab Thursday in the 2200 block of Fourth Avenue in Terre Haute.
Police bust meth lab in Terre Haute
Police busted a clandestine methamphetamine lab today in the 2200 block of Fourth Avenue in Terre Haute.
UPDATE: Ethics panel approves $5K fine against Bennett
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s State Ethics Commission has approved a $5,000 fine against former state schools Superintendent Tony Bennett for using state resources in his 2012 campaign.
Vigo County Jail Log: July 10, 2014
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Wednesday and Thursday, based on jail records.
Group: 5,000 same-sex marriages in Illinois
A survey indicates thousands of same-sex couples are marrying in Illinois.
Study: Hunting restores forests in state parks
A study by a Purdue University research team has found that regulated deer hunts in Indiana state parks have helped restore forests damaged by too many white-tailed deer.
Historic Ohio Boulevard house inspired by 1948 Cary Grant movie
Spurred in 1948 by a newly released movie staring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy, coupled with a growing post-World War II housing market, General Electric partnered with Hollywood’s RKO Studios to build “dream homes” throughout the country.
A panel of public and private officials is calling for $10 billion in projects to upgrade Indiana’s aging roads and bridges, but its members concede there’s no money to pay for it all.
MARK BENNETT: Making road work a barrel of fun for drivers
We’re lucky orange barrels can’t talk.
City Council to take up city finances tonight
The Terre Haute City Council will have a chance in a special meeting tonight to delve deeply into the city’s financial health. However, council members are being asked to avoid raising the most controversial subject of recent weeks: The city’s use of Redevelopment Commission tax increment finance (TIF) money.
Bennett accepts $5,000 fine in ethics settlement
Former Indiana Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett has agreed to pay $5,000 as part of a settlement with Indiana’s ethics watchdog in which he admits to using state resources for campaign work but is cleared of formal ethics violations in the grade-change scandal that cost him his job as Florida’s schools chief last year.
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