Cards and Conversations

Observations about life, people and relationships from the card department.

Cards and Connections

In the card department the other day, a woman came up to me asking for the 99 cent designs. “I need to send lots of cards to my grandchildren,” she said, “because they love getting mail.”

I love getting mail, too. Nothing beats a personalized letter with a stamp on top. Mail delivery gives us the chance to send notes to each other in lieu of a personal visit. I have an overflowing box full of greeting cards and handwritten notes, all of which I treasure.

I tried to select one particular card for this blog but couldn’t. When I started to read them, my trip down memory lane caused my eyes to flood with tears and my heart to overflow like the box in front of me. The cards and notes all shared messages of love, hope and connections, in abundance.

Words matter.

Do you have a box full of greeting cards, too?

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My season of being a card department merchandiser has ended, and this is my final post into this Cards and Conversations blog. However, the significance of connecting people with each other through greeting cards will always continue.

Back to those grandchildren. I loved the grandmother’s commitment to send notes to her grandchildren instead of quick messages through texting. She’s continuing a tradition of taking the time to write a sentiment and send it in the mail. These are the cards and notes we will keep and look at many years later. These are the kinds of notes which bring a smile as they trigger our memories and kindle our relationships.

Yes, the mail system also delivers what I don’t enjoy: the bills, the junk mail, and the ads. One of those ads I received recently was sent in an envelope printed with my name in a computerized form of cursive, and I noticed it. Maybe it’s personal? When I realized it was perfectly printed, I dismissed it along with the others, and looked for something personal instead. When my address is printed in imperfect cursive, then I know it’s a perfect note.

Think of me when you buy a card for someone. Cards will always enhance connections in my life. I hope they enhance connections in your life, too.

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The Anniversary Card

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In the card department the other day, a woman asked where she could find the anniversary cards.

“It’s for Dot and Jim,” she said. “They’ve been married ten years now. There was a crazy storm the day of their wedding. Such a disaster that day, but we had so much fun.”

I didn’t think I heard her correctly. “A disaster?”

“Yup. The local police started an evacuation due to a hurricane warning. We made it to the church okay, but the roads were closed so we couldn’t get to the reception hall. After the ceremony, a few people got some sodas and snacks, and set them up in the back of the church. And we had the wedding cake, too, because the lady who made it was trying to bring it to the hall. We ate cake and snacks and had a ball!”

Random folding chairs and a few plastic tables wouldn’t win the Reception of the Year award in my opinion.

“Were you nervous?” I asked, “You know, about the weather and all?”

“No, not really. A group of ten of us were visiting from out of town and we were glad to have the chance to hang out for the weekend. After the ceremony, we all traveled to the same hotel, which, fortunately, still had power and water. Not a problem, except for the one couple whose room was on the top floor.”

“What happened to them?”

“No one was hurt, but the roof caved in from all the water and wind. They were moved to another room, no problem.”

Really, a near-miss with possible death, and it’s no problem?

She continued. “Then, in the middle of the night, I had one of those funny feelings I get. I told my husband to get up and take a shower. He listened to me that time. I’m glad he did, because the hotel lost their water supply about twenty minutes later.”

“Wow, that must have been difficult!”

“It wasn’t too bad. We got up, packed, and left for home the next day. It was so much fun!”

I’ve been to fun weddings, and this was not what I’d call fun.

She then found the perfect anniversary card. It had a little boat on the front and the greeting: The adventure continues…

I appreciated her final comment to me before leaving. “They are a wonderful couple. And I know if they can weather that storm, they can weather anything!”

I’d hate to see what happens when this lady is having a bad day. Now that would be quite an adventure.

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The Holiday Card

In the card department the other day, I set up the Halloween cards. Shades of orange and brown with a splash of purple thrown in made the display as inviting as the crisp fall air outside. It was time for a change. Well, maybe.

A young girl walked by. “Dad! They’re putting Halloween cards out already!”

“I know, honey.”

“But Mom says she’s not ready!”

Funny how children pick up on the urgency of the season. Halloween cards mark the beginning of the holiday season, and people start panicking about Christmas being around the corner.

I understand.

My grandmother used to say she never understood why people seemed frantic at the holidays since Christmas comes at the same day every year. I always remembered her comment. I tried to tackle the holiday rush by planning ahead.

One year, I had all my Christmas shopping finished by September 1st. It felt wonderful. I could enjoy the holidays for what they’re meant to be—a time for family, reflection and good memories. Except for one thing. By the time December rolled around, I purchased more items than I needed because, well, they were there.

The following year, I finished my holiday shopping and planning by October 1st. Not quite so early, but not too late either. Conscientious about staying within my budget, I managed not to purchase more than I needed. Sounds great, right? Except for the fact I forgot where I hid the Christmas presents for my family. A couple last-minute searches in the far corners of the closet helped save the day. It turned out to be a fun experience to wrap the gifts because I forgot what I had purchased.

My recommendation? Go ahead and plan for the holiday now so you can enjoy it. And go ahead and enjoy the Halloween cards, too. They are not meant to spook you about the holiday season, just about Halloween. Boo!

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The 99 Cent Card

In the card department the other day, I was stocking cards in one aisle and heard the conversation between a mom and her young son in the next.

“What kind of card do you want for Devon’s birthday?” she asked.

“Thomas the Train!”

“That’s a great card,” she said. Then, a minute later. “Wow, it’s almost $5.00. Boy that’s a lot of money for a card. Gee, it’s only made out of paper.”

Wait a minute, lady. It’s not only paper. It’s about connections. Relationships. Emotions. Life.

But I do understand the desire to be careful with our hard-earned money. I poked my head around the corner. “The 99 cent cards are in the back of this aisle, if you’re interested.”

The woman and her son found a card in the Value section. I found it interesting they still spent a few minutes to find the perfect card. The card with the balloons? No. The cake and candles card? No. They picked the card with the puppy on it. Devon likes puppies.

I bet Devon’s birthday will be as special as his hand-picked card.

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The Friend’s Birthday Card

In the card department the other day, a woman asked where the birthday cards for “friend” were located.

We have “friend” cards in the general section, the feminine birthday card section, the funny card section and the specialty card section. The question remains: what KIND of friend are we talking about? Even more importantly, what kind of birthday message are we sending?

Sometimes, we want to get our friends a sentimental birthday card, particularly if it has been a tough year, or even more so if she is having a tough time with the –ahem- number of candles on her birthday cake.

Other times, however, it’s about relaxing and celebrating the joy of our friendship. Makes me think of confetti, balloons, cake and ice cream.

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Yet other times, friends and birthdays combine for the ultimate cocktail of emotions as varied as laughing and crying. If a card evokes either of these emotions, it’s the right card.

The woman found a birthday card, finally.

“It will make her cry,” she said.

Perfect.

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The Blank Card–revisited

In the card department the other day, a customer asked me where to find the blank cards. She wasn’t quite sure what to say and the white space freed her to share from her heart without categorizing her feelings.

I’ve always been intrigued by the appeal of the blank cards. I notice people taking extensive amounts of time to find the perfect card, with the perfect words, the perfect illustrations (and of course at the perfect price) for their loved ones and friends. Why spend the money on a card with no words inside?

She then told me why she needed the card. It was for her son—in jail. Gulp.

There is no other type of card I can think of which fits.

Good luck?

Thinking of you?

Encouragement?

Get well soon?

None of these work. The only perfect solution? A few simple words to her son saying “I love you,” surrounded by the hug of the blank white page. I’ve always perceived words to be a gift, but sometimes the absence of words is a gift.

Have you ever used a blank card to send a special message?

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The Milestone Birthday Cards

In the card department the other day, I noticed the assortment of milestone birthday cards. I found myself wondering why these ages in particular have special cards made for them. There’s the first birthday card, the second birthday card, the third…and so on until the 13th birthday. Then we drop 14 and 15 and jump to the 16th birthday, then 18th, then 21st. Why?

Adult birthday cards celebrate by the decades. 30, 40, 50, 60…and then when we hit 70, we insert the ‘5’s with special cards for ages 75, 85 and 95. And of course, the ultimate. The 100th birthday card.

I can still remember when my husband and I made the crazy mistake of having a huge shindig for my oldest child’s first birthday. Yes, it was special, but not because our son turned one. It was because we, the mom and dad, survived our first year of parenting. We invited almost 100 people, rented a hall, catered food, and had family and friends enlisted to help with the party details. What were we thinking?

Our daughter’s first birthday a couple years later was way milder…a few friends at the house to hang out and enjoy a simple cake. Now that’s more like it. We could focus on the reason for the celebration…our daughter.

As an adult, my personal favorite milestone birthday was turning 50. Some people have problems with turning 50, but others, like myself, celebrate big-time. I decided to have a celebration a month, with someone different each time, for the entire year. One month, it was a fancy dinner. Another month included an overnight stay at a bed and breakfast. I celebrated with my husband and children by visiting my favorite city, Philadelphia, for the weekend. We put our tourist hats on and had a ball. Fun!

Not all birthdays are fun, or even funny.

The other day, a mom and dad were shopping in the card department with their three elementary-age children. The mom was looking around and the dad was chatting with the children. The topic was jokes, and what it’s like to try to make other people laugh.

The dad: “Sometimes, we try to make people laugh, but it makes them cry. Remember the time Mommy was turning 30 and I got her a card that say 40 and she cried?”

Not funny!

Milestone birthdays. Sometimes fun, sometimes funny. Sometimes not so funny.

What’s your favorite milestone birthday and how did you celebrate?

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The Father’s Day Card

In the card department the other day, the final frantic search for the perfect Father’s Day card continued to the very last moment before the big day. I couldn’t believe the mad rush, as I expected the Father’s day cards to be purchased way in advance since we moms tend to plan ahead. Guess I was wrong.

One dad I know commented that he observed something strange about Father’s day activities. “Why is it,” he asked, “that we take the women out to dinner to a fancy restaurant on Mother’s day, but the dads eat at home on Father’s day? Not only that, they are the ones cooking their own dinner!”

“I guess because it happens so rarely,” I said. When I thought about it, I realized the truth of his comment. We all picture the grill being fired up to officially start the summer season—on Father’s day.

While at Dunkin’ Donuts one morning, I saw an adorable father-daughter team sitting across from me, enjoying their healthy breakfast. She was probably two years old. Coffee and a donut for him, juice and a donut for her. An icing-topped donut covered with sprinkles. Her white-blonde hair with the ponytails sticking straight up matched the white icing on her donut. Those crystal blue eyes of hers were gazing with glee at her dad between those sticky bites. They were having a ball. With dad, it’s about doing things which are out of the ordinary, and donuts for breakfast instead of, say, a healthy portion of eggs and whole wheat bread, make any outing with dad a special event.

The bottom line: getting dad’s attention. What’s better than simply hanging out, having donuts and a chat, and easing into the day with no apparent schedule in mind? Certainly beats the mad rush out the door with mom.

Men, we do love your lack of structure and routine, sometimes. It’s only special because we moms are creating the routine all of the other days. So I guess it’s a special day for all of us.

Happy Father’s day, dads.

 

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The Kid’s Birthday Card

In the card department the other day, two women were checking out the musical selection. One said to the other, sighing, “Jake wants a card with a hamster on it singing ‘Kung Fu Fighting.’ I don’t think I’ll be able to find it. He gave it to someone for their birthday and wants it for his own birthday.”

The other woman’s comment: “Have fun with that.”

No, I haven’t memorized all the cards we sell but I happened to know where the Kung Fu card was located. Why? Because I think it’s one of the strangest birthday cards around, but I replace it often. It must be popular, huh?

I went around the corner to the other rack of cards, pulled the Kung Fu hamster out and gave it to her.

“This might be the card you’re looking for,” I said.

She looked at it, opened to the musical rendition of “Kung Fu Fighting,” and her shocked expression was more valuable than the price of the card.

She explained further that the card was for her grandson, and of course what grandmother doesn’t want to please her grandson?

“Thank you!” she said.

I notice a common trend with kids’ birthday cards. Over and over I’ll hear the moms bring their little tykes to the card department to help select the perfect card for their friends. They interrogate. How old is he going to be? What’s her favorite princess? What’s his favorite toy? I’ve been asked for Star Wars cards, Lego cards, Tinkertoy cards (hey, wait a minute, those were from my childhood!), and a card for whatever the latest kid movie on the big screen happens to be at the time. (“Let It Go,” anyone?) Most often, however, I hear the kids tell their moms they want this card or that card for their own birthday. The moms do their best to explain it’s their friends’ birthday, not theirs. Ahhh, empathy. A tough lesson to learn in childhood. It’s tough in adulthood, too.

When we find a card with the perfect words, sharing the perfect sentiment, to feel perfectly loved, it’s always worth the search.

Hamsters, anyone?

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The Funny Card

In the card department the other day, I saw an elderly woman who looked familiar. I remembered her short snow-white hair with a cute pixie cut, sparkling blue eyes and welcoming smile. Shopping for a funny birthday card, I remembered she was in the same section the day before, only this time she was alone. I asked if she was looking for something in particular.

“Oh yes, I remember you,” she said. “I was here with my five-year-old grandson yesterday, He picked up this card and couldn’t stop laughing. He said it looked like Humpty Dumpty was talking.”

“Oh,” I said. “Why are you back?”

“I decided to buy the card and save it for when he’s older,” she said, “because he won’t understand it until then.”

It was a cartoon drawing of a person showing their—ahem—bottom–which suggested a sentiment for getting old. I looked at it and if I used my imagination, I guessed it could resemble a talking egg, especially one that’s about to fall off a wall. What I thought was funny, though, was that this woman was going to buy and save this card for her grandson fifteen years later. I wonder if he’ll think it’s still funny then.

I’ve noticed the most popular funny birthday cards deal with one of three subjects: animals, old age or drinking. There’s usually a dog, an old lady or a woman-with-wine or man-with-beer suggesting these things are necessary to enjoy another birthday.

I always wonder if the recipients think the cards are as funny as those giving them the cards. I don’t remember receiving many funny cards recently, but I have to admit my son is enjoying the fact that I don’t care for glittery cards. Now all his cards to me have as much glitter as he can find. Yup, that’s funny.

What makes the funny cards so funny? When they are personal to the giver and the receiver of the card. I think this is why so many people will take the time to look for the perfect card—sometimes as long at twenty minutes or more. It reminds me relationships are important and worth the time in this high-speed world of texting.

Whether it’s the giver or the receiver of the funny card, at least someone is laughing.

Can you remember a favorite funny card you received?

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