I’m Sorry If I Sent You That “Christmas Card”

 It was 1963, in December, and I was on Christmas break from URI. My father had gotten me a job at the United States Post Office, on Main St., in Arctic (West Warwick’s shopping district). Most of my jobs at a young age were due to my father’s connections with others. Being high school principal of the town’s only high school had its perks.

I’d work the first shift at a glorious time. Already, the streetlights of Arctic were festooned with colorful garlands and lights, heralding the approaching season.

Most of the people at the Post Office had worked together for years. Those of us who were “seasonal workers,” were hired to handle the giant uptick in mail, a surge that resulted in 2-deliveries-a-day, at the time. (That seems incredible now!)

My job was sorting the mail….checking addresses on the envelopes and putting those envelopes into appropriate slots along a wall unit. I filed away thousands of these, robotically, without even noting the name on the envelope….just its ultimate destination.

The envelopes came flooding in, as the days got closer to Christmas. It was only then that I noticed that these were all from the United States government, addressed to young men in our town.

So many envelopes…all the same. I began to notice and even recognize some of the young men’s names. They were my contemporaries.

I finally asked, half-kiddingly: “Why’s the government sending all these men Christmas cards?”

One particularly senior member of our employee crew answered: “Oh, those aren’t Christmas cards. They’re draft notices.”

I felt terrible. I had become one of an important chain whereby these men would learn the harrowing news that shortly after the holiday, they were to report for active duty. But they’d know before Christmas, a fact that would surely dampen any holiday mood, for Viet Nam raged at the time and casualties mounted, daily.

So, to all those who got “the letter,” I’m truly sorry. I never knew how my action of putting that letter in its rightful slot would eventually impact you.

I apologize but also realize:  I could have done nothing differently.

We were all mere cogs in this theatre of life.        

…..Even if you had the far more dangerous role.

Colleen Kelly Mellor (colleenkellymellor@gmail.com)invites you to her website (colleenkellymellor.com)where she focuses on life’s crazy happenstances and its accidental heroes.

Draft notice to the right is an example of what went out. Note that it’s from the President of the United States, to a man in California.



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