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 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.

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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 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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The Mother’s Day Card

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In the card department the other day, I frantically set the final batch of mother’s day cards to keep up with the gargantuan demand for all-things-mom.

There are cards for mom, mother, mother-in-law, grandma, nana, grandmother, sister, aunt, like-a-mom, friend, daughter, daughter-from-your-mother, mother-from-your-daughter-, mother-from-your-son, stepmom, and of course, mom-from-your-dog. Guess you never thought of all those options, huh? A large majority of the cards are sweet and sentimental but my favorite are the funny cards. These had customers laughing out loud and I laughed along with them.

In its simplest form, I believe mother’s day is the busiest greeting card holiday of the year because it represents unconditional, unlimited, beautiful love. Who wouldn’t want that?

Ah, a beautiful thought, but when shopping for mother’s day cards the day before the holiday, the message of love can get lost in the shuffle. Tenacious and focused, I continued to put the cards out despite the tension in the air.

I heard my favorite conversation which went something like this:

Little girl: “Daddy.”

Pause.

“Daddy.”

Pause.

“Daddy.”

Pause.

“Daddy!”

Then, finally, the dad: “What?”

Little girl: “There’s a lot of daddies here!”

I looked around and laughed out loud. A row of men ten across and three deep were looking for mother’s day cards.

That little girl is going to be a card merchandiser one day.

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The Easter Card

In the card department the other day, a woman spent quite a bit of time finding Easter cards for her four grandchildren. Two were over ten years old and the other two were preschoolers. She wanted cute cards with, you guessed it, bunnies, on the front for the younger children.

What’s with Easter and bunnies? Since when have bunnies started to lay eggs? One source states the Easter bunny legend began in Germany and was brought to America in the 1700’s. I think it’s easier to believe in Santa Claus.

Whether it’s a bunny, a chick or an egg, symbols of fertility and all things spring might be cute and cuddly on a greeting card, but when it comes to the grown-up-sized bunnies for the photo portraits, I think we’ve gone too far.

 
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These characters are fodder for horror novels, in my opinion. I can still remember when my daughter screamed bloody murder every time we came within 100 feet of the dressed-up Easter bunny at the mall. Needless to say, we never participated in the Easter bunny photo experience. I still find it strange to see children pose with a bigger-than-life bunny so they can get the candy and eggs and candy-in-plastic-eggs they desire.

Personally, I prefer my Easter cards to talk about the real Easter story. You know, the amazing love story about how Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead? Yup, that one. Then, maybe we can also talk about marshmallow peeps and egg-shaped chocolate. God’s love and candy. Those are the sweet treats I can enjoy. Those are what I’d like to see on the front of my Easter card. How about you?

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The Encouragement Card

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In the card department the other day, the conversation between a young mom and her toddler gave a sneak preview of the scene I was about to witness.

“Mo-ommm!” Two syllables made the little boy’s point clearer.

“I said ‘no,’ young man, and I mean it. Now put it back.”

“But I want it!”

“No,” she said again, calmly but firmly.

They approached me, the mom with her dark curly hair thrown back into a quick ponytail, and her son, with his same dark curly hair toddling behind her. He was carefully holding a tiny bag of even tinier rubber bands for one of those new bracelet looms. Her response prompted him to object by throwing the bag down. The bag opened and a pile of rubber bands ended up on the floor. Mom was at the end of her rope.

I bent down to help pick up the pieces.

“Thank you,” she said, exasperated.

“Don’t worry,” I said, “I remember those days.”

“This has not been a good trip!” she said.

I’ve had plenty of not-so-good trips. It has been over a decade, but I still remember the days when toting my small children along for what I thought were simple errands required monumental project planning and time management. I’d harbor a tiny sense of hope that this time, things would go smoothly and I’d get done effortlessly, like when I was single and in charge of my life. I remember using the same words to define the experiences as a “good trip” or a “not-so-good trip.” This helped to keep my frustration encapsulated within the boundaries of the trip. Otherwise, it became a not-so-good day, or week, or month, or more.

It was these times, however, that I’d receive just the perfect encouragement card or note in the mail from a friend. A simple “I’m here for you,” or “You’re a great mom,” or, “You’ll get through this” was sometimes all I needed. Those encouragement cards go a long way on the trips that aren’t so great. I think it’s time to send another one out to someone soon. How about you?

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In-Law Cards

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In the card department the other day, a couple was in the “daughter” section looking for a birthday card. This one was not for their daughter though, it was for their daughter-in-law. Then I heard the strangest comment. The man said they needed a card which celebrated her, but didn’t condone her.

I don’t know what he meant.

In-law relationships are fragile.

Another day a woman asked for a holiday card for her “grandson and his wife.” Was she trying to include the granddaughter-in-law or was she making a point that her grandson was more important?

I still remember when I first met my husband’s grandmother, the family matriarch, more than twenty years ago. Getting invited to her house for dinner was how I knew our relationship was serious. Would I make it in her eyes as “family material?” I needed to spruce up on my manners. Who wrote those old books on manners, anyway? Smile pretty. Keep elbows off the table. Use gravy on the mashed potatoes. Take just one pat of butter. If the internet was popular then, I would have searched for Emily Post’s website on etiquette to brush up before the big event.

Grandmom turned out to be a sweetie. She told fascinating stories of times long ago as she served her favorite meal, roast beef. Of course, she had all the proper fixings, including mashed potatoes with gravy. She made her exquisite gravy by pouring the meat drippings into a separate saucepan, quickly whisking in some flour while heating so there were no lumps, then straining carefully until it was smooth and came together. Rolls with softened butter and steamed green beans rounded out the feast. It became clear Grandmom enjoyed company and preferred to have people over to share some of her favorite foods with her. Then came dessert. The lemon meringue pie she served was so perfect it looked fake. It tasted immaculate.

A couple years later, I was an official in-law. What a treat when I received a birthday card from her that year which referred to me as “granddaughter.” Maybe they didn’t have granddaughter-in-law cards then, but I like to think she was trying to tell me I was a true member of the family.

So yea, in-law relationships are not always smooth but, like the gravy, sometimes it all comes together.

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