Cards and Conversations

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

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 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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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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The Blank Card

I recently started a part-time position with a card company, stocking the little beauties in a retail setting. I’ve loved cards since I was a young adult, always striving to send the perfect note at the perfect time to a friend or family member and loving each minute of it. Why? Because words matter.

Words are the salve to heal our wounds when we’re hurt, the strength when we need a boost, the comfort when we’re down, the reminders to us we are important. Life is sometimes too busy to have a much-needed face-to-face conversation with a friend, especially when life’s ups and downs are thrown at us. The cards fill those gaps in their special way.

Until it was my job to return cards to their correct pockets, I hadn’t realized the importance of those cardboard sheets categorizing the cards with labels called “card captions.”  Those captions define life in its simplest forms: birthday, congratulations, sympathy, thinking of you, and my favorite, the blank card.

On one of my first weeks at the job, a woman was wandering the department for a while, more than ten minutes. She had a couple of selected cards in her cart, but seemed to still be searching for the right one. I asked if she found what she was looking for.

“I need a sympathy card,” she said. “It’s for my dad.”

I wondered what that meant. Was it because her dad knew someone who died? Then wouldn’t she also know that person who died? Did her dad die? I was confused.

“Well, I’m not sure what kind of card to get,” she said, “because I haven’t talked with my dad in quite a few years.”

Hmmm, it wasn’t about a sympathy card, it was about a relationship. I suggested she get a blank card instead. Cards can change everything, even the blank ones.

Have you had a situation where a card changed your life in a memorable way? I know I have. Many times.