Although my wife, Marsha, reads through her diary and takes notes weeks before Christmas, we are usually down to the wire by the time her year-end letter is in the computer. Happily, most letters now go out by email. Every year, however, a stack goes out by snail mail and I’m never sure what to put on for postage.

When I first sent letters, a 3-cent-stamp would do the job. Year after year you knew that 3 cents would send your letter. Right after I got out of the Coast Guard it was jacked up to 4 cents and it’s been hard to keep track of first-class postage ever since.

Now you probably buy “forever” stamps. This is inevitable because nowadays the price of a stamp is likely to increase before it can be printed. We quickly ran out of stamps. No problem, because I have rolls of 17-cent Bighorn sheep stamps – which have been in my desk since your kid with the Ph.D. was in grade school. Three Bighorn sheep plus four 1-cent stamps is 55 cents. We’re now wondering if our Christmas cards will be returned to us because the extra weight of all the stamps might require additional postage.

Tis also the season that the traditional group of Christmas carolers who, with mittened hands, tasseled hats and colorful scarves, do their thing in lightly falling snow outside the brightly illuminated homes of appreciative old folks – who secretly hold hands in a holly-decked doorway.

You’ve seen that tableau countless times on film and on the covers of magazines. But how often have you seen it play out that way in real life here on the coast of Maine?

We were cleaning up after supper and about to stick Bighorn sheep postage stamps on a stack of Christmas cards when Marsha said that someone was pounding at the back door. I panicked. For years I have been allergic to the smell of food in my mouth and must use a Waterpik and rinse out my mouth immediately after eating or I cough.

However, I managed to open the back door and latch back the storm door. Because the three back floodlights are activated by motion detectors, I could then see a dozen of my closest relatives with their small children – who were appropriately dressed in matching pajamas – all standing in the mud in our backyard.

The week before we’d had a foot of snow, and two days of 50-degree temperatures had blessed us with the deep mud and puddles of early April.

I hadn’t had time to Waterpik so I couldn’t talk and my hearing aids were on my desk so I couldn’t hear. I stumbled into the bathroom to clean my teeth so I could breathe and tried to remember where I’d put my hearing aids.

Meanwhile, Marsha was struggling to get through my cluttered room with her four-wheel walker. A week ago I brought in some small cabinets of washers and had been sorting them out on a card table. Old Maine men, seeking mindless employment in the winter, often organize their hardware when it is too cold to play in the barn.

With happy children on the lawn bringing us glad tidings, things were happening much too fast for two elderly people who had been locked in the slow lane since March. Somehow, in the midst of all my confusion, I managed to rearrange enough furniture so Marsha could get her walker through the room and over by the door.

I have a vague memory of eager young voices singing over the rattle of my Waterpik. I finished in record time, popped a cough drop in my mouth to facilitate breathing and by walking sideways was able to ease myself between my temporary work desk and my reclining chair.

I never reached the door. Before I got that far, the concert was over, and I met Marsha working her way back to her kitchen through the narrow passage in my room.

It was very thoughtful of the youngsters to visit two shut-in people so close to Christmas. Their songs added a warm touch to the season.

Young people can’t be expected to realize that old folks might profit by a phone call giving them 20 minutes to prepare for a wonderful backyard visit. It now takes some of us almost that much time just to get to the door.

How did you and yours survive the holidays? Or will it be a few more days before you know?

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:

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