Dear Beverly,

Don't make too much of what you call George's Scrooge-like behavior toward the Christmas cards you receive. Admittedly he should show them to you first before he tosses them in the wastebasket. At least he does keep back the few that say "gift following" as a check on the mail system.

But, Beverly, your attitude toward seasons greetings cards is overly sentimental. Last year you had your way and strung so many around the house they looked like diapers on a clothesline. Even the one from The Everlasting Valve Company, listing its financial assets, had a place on the Christmas tree.

"Wife of" is of two minds about this card business. I like to get a handwritten note from a friend I haven't seen for a while, but there are certain categories I could do without.

1.Cards from Famous Names I've actually met without any personal signature.

2.Cards from Famous Names I've never met with imitation handwritten signature, inscribed by all the family including the baby's scrawl.

3.Cards with photos of families I can't recognize.

For instance, there was this card, dateline Peking. The photo showed an Occidental family standing in front of a pagoda. A nice message was written inside the flap, but the name was indecipherable.

"It must be the Almayers," I said to Mr. Ambassador. "They told me they were taking the whole family to China on a big trip. Didn't Almayer cash in his IBM stock?"

"Mrs. Almayer is short and dark; this mother is tall and blonde," Mr. Ambassador said.

"What about the fellow we met from the British Foreign Office? Didn't he say he was going as counselor to Peking?"

"He's not married."

I showed the card to Popsie Tribble, who said, "Don't be silly, I received the same card. It's the Petwhistles."

"I don't know the Petwhistles."

"You don't have to know them," Popsie said. "He's a congressman with free franking privileges. Even so," she added, "I wonder how you got on their list."

I bumped into "wife of" Portant at the J. C. Penney store buying her cards for next year.

"I always buy them after Christmas because they go on sale. Don't expect to get one from us, because we never send cards to people in the same city. However," she continued, "if Mr. Ambasador is fired and has to leave town, you'll hear from us."

Melvin Thistle Jr. from State, who does live in the same city, sent us greetings. It had a picture of a Christmas tree on the front, and the message read, "This card is printed on 100 percent recycled paper made entirely from reclaimed waste paper. No trees were destroyed making this card."

When I told Popsie about Thistle's card, she said, "I think the card is in questionable taste coming from someone in the State Department. Hasn't Thistle Junior heard about the slump in our timber industry?"

Joe Promisall, the lobbyist, sent out what my Auntie Zora would call a good-taste card. These cards are reproductions of famous and not so famous art works. Popsie Tribble might send out a Raphael Madonna or a Rubens nativity scene. But Joe, as always, considers his clients, who might be members of the Muslim, Jewish or Shinto faiths. He plays it safe by sending out a reproduction of a Franz Kline, a black on white applied by a paint roller, which hardly could be considered as having a Christmas or even a New Year's content. Those of his clients who are offended by abstract expresionism will just have to lump it.

"My bete noir concerning Christmas cards," Popsie continued "are people who send you pictures of themselves with a famous person. Sonny Goldstone sent me one. He was sitting at the same head table with the president."

"I thought Sonny was a Democrat," I said.

"Profitable Jobs like Sonny keep their feet in both political camps. He thinks we're Republicans because of Dexter's job in the White House. Sonny prints different cards for different people. I happen to know that Congressman Otterbach (D) received a picture of Sonny standing by a building site with Lane Kirkland and wearing a hard hat. I don't think Kirkland or the president know who Sonny is. But as far as I'm concerned," Popsie continued, "the ultimate bad taste cards have Victorian snow scenes, and anything to do with Santa and reindeers."

"What about a picture of someone's newly decorated dining room?" I asked. "An old school chum sent me that from Montreal."

"That's for Architectural Digest not Christmas cards," Popsie said.

"I also received a costume card."

"What's a costume card?" Popsie asked.

"I think it might be classified as a variation on the Petwhistle's travel theme. Congressman Otterbach went to India and is wearing a dhoti in the picture like Gandhi."

"I suppose," Popsie mused, "that's less materialistic than the card I received from the Tinkertons. He's in cement. The message read 'Greetings from Kyoto. Sheila's wearing her new Mikimoto pearls, Peter's showing off his Seiko wristwatch and what do you think of the Kawasaki motorcycle we bought for our son Tom who's at Choate?'

Just a mention, Beverly, of some of the cards to which "wife of" reacts with mixed feelings. 1.Seasons greetings from congressional committees. 2.Photographs of friends our age who look 10 years younger than us. 3.The picture of a litter sired by Sen. Pod's Rhodesian ridgeback.

Beverly, your card I'm sorry to say comes in this category. What are you and George doing sitting in a canoe? George has never been a white water man, and you get seasick when you face the stern of a rowboat in the middle of a lake.

Your best friend, Sondra