by Maggie Van Ostrand
is the season where Awards shows give out their envelopes of excellence. I'm
more concerned with another kind of envelope, the kind charities send back to
you as follow-ups to your preceding donation. They are the Guilt Envelopes.
you write a check or make an internet contribution to your favorite charity,
you're helping worthy causes. You feel good. You have been useful. You'll get a
tax deduction. What you'll also get is a lifetime of Guilt Envelopes. You can
die, they still come. Envelopes are for people like Oscar nominees. And my Mom.
sent donations to Catholic charities and they always sent back a Jesus picture
with blood-dripping heart, and an envelope for another donation. The sight of
the new envelope just sitting there waiting to be filled, instead filled Mom
with something else — guilt by osmosis.
succumbing to the Guilt Envelopes, Mom was considered a regular donor and sent
a plastic saint. The more she gave, the higher the amount requested on the next
envelope. No way to keep up.
plastic saints were chintzy looking, kind of like the cheapest picnic forks you
find at Walmart, the kind that still have the little tabs which once attached them
until a factory worker cut them apart. These are hardly the Duck Dynasty
bobbleheads so many pick-up trucks enjoy.
mom died, my sister, unable to bring herself to throw the saints and envelopes
away, gave me a box full. There were plenty, since Mom had died over a year
before and still the relentless envelopes kept coming.
didn't want them either. However, each time I picked them up and walked toward
the trash can, I became paralyzed with guilt. What, I should simmer in
Purgatory or burn in Hell? Is Mom looking down, disappointed in me, afraid for
me? How can I trash saints like Bartholomew, Patron of Plasterers, Martin de
Porres, Patron of Hairdressers, or Jesus with his bloody heart? I prayed for an
answer. And I got one.
is Hollywood, where superstition runs strong and deep, especially during the
months preceding the Academy Awards. Film folk are always knocking on wood,
throwing salt over their shoulders, and avoiding black cats and ladders. Very
early one morning, I went to a Beverly Hills Church frequented by movie stars
praying for an Oscar. I placed the saints on the altar railing and left.
they be seen as a message? A mystery? A miracle? Would fondling them achieve an
sneaked in a week later and those plastic saints were still there, each standing
on their individual Guilt Envelope. I doubt the celebrities will ignore them at
this time of year. Guilt is as important as football, as easily applied as
lipstick and as lasting as this Awards season.