DEAR MISS MANNERS: In this day of scrapbooking and preserving memories, I have been spending time preparing a scrapbook of photos and memorabilia for my son. I have my opening page with his birth announcement and hospital photo. All pages are embellished throughout. Photos will end with his marriage, four years ago, and current times.
There are photos including two particular ex-girlfriends who at that time were meaningful in his life. I adore my daughter-in-law, and would not in any way want to offend her.
GENTLE READER: Ah, you have come upon the major dilemma of amateur archivists and genealogists. Pleased as Miss Manners is to see the respect for the past behind this hobby, she worries when people get so carried away with enshrining the past that they cause havoc in the present.
Some ladies would be amused at seeing their husbands' old sweethearts, and some would be decidedly un-amused. The problem is that no one -- not their mothers-in-law, not even their husbands and certainly not Miss Manners -- knows which are which.
And there is no use asking. They'll all say it's fine, and then some of them will hold it against you forever.
Miss Manners' suggestion is that you leave the ex-girlfriends out of the album, but attach an envelope to the inside back cover marked "miscellaneous friends" including their pictures among others'.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is a gracious response when offered gifts or a greeting specific to a religion to which one does not profess? We're Jewish, but an acquaintance's "Merry Christmas" has always been cheerfully returned as a simple courtesy of the season, and we are always pleased to wish others well in their more solemn observances.
The question became a bit more problematic when we moved house, and several of our new neighbors arrived with wonderful home-baked goodies and plants with an Easter theme. I did not want to dilute their consideration by adding any qualifiers to our expressions of gratitude, nor did I refrain from accepting their Easter wishes and returning them in kind.
But I do wonder if I have bungled. Did this create a false impression? Would indicating in some way that we do not celebrate Easter as a religious holiday have been construed as a rejection of what was plainly offered with only the best of intentions?
I accept that the secularization of so many holidays plus varying levels of tolerance for displays of religion in public life is another issue entirely. I just want to know if there is a good way to acknowledge the spirit of the occasion on honest terms with our own beliefs.
GENTLE READER: We are talking bunnies and colored eggs here, along with the food and plants, Miss Manners trusts. Not crucifixes or other overt symbols of Christianity.
As you are able to accept the secular aspects of Christmas, you should be able to take this gesture in the same spirit. (If not, you could thank your new neighbors profusely, and say, simply, "You are so kind, but as Jews, we don't celebrate Easter.") And you might reciprocate by offering them Passover treats.