Friday, December 20, 2013

Greetings from so many seasons

My grandmother was not the type to just grab any old card to wish someone a happy whatever. The greeting preferably had to detail the specific relationship she shared with the recipient. In recent years this has meant asking someone else to pick up a nice card for her to mail. Just to reiterate, we needed the card, that she did not pick out, to be more personal than whatever generic ones she had laying around.

Let’s take that notion one step further, we are discussing a card picked out by someone else with words written by a complete stranger. Is that not in and of itself the antithesis of personal? Do you care enough to send the very best words that someone else wrote, but most directly reflect your feelings about the birthday girl? You could pen a message to tell someone how much you love them or how much they make you smile, but isn’t it really more meaningful if the words rhyme, and are in a jazzy font? 

I guess I had not come to fully appreciate what Hallmark, Gibson and the American Greetings crew meant to my grandmother until yesterday. I have been spending a bit of time with my grandmother this holiday season, helping to decorate her house and doing some behind the scenes organizing and purging. I knew there were some greeting cards stashed in the drawer of her hutch, but wasn't sure how to broach the topic of them possibly not being there anymore. Opportunity knocked though, when I found myself with a handful of flowered notecards less than six months old that she told me I could throw away. I did not want to appear hasty so I told her I would tuck them in the drawer for the next day's project. I thought I was exaggerating by using the word "project".

Ninety-five percent of the cards had nothing more than a one word sentiment and a signature. Many of the envelopes were hanging around as well. I did pause briefly at the pile of envelopes addressed in my late grandfather's pen to "Benchie", his nickname for my grandmother, Blanche. I was sitting with my grandmother, in the house that my grandfather built, surrounded by so many things time had apparently forgotten. I basically saw the cards as clutter that could go. 

"Gram, what year were you married? This card from me to you says 'happy forty-ninth anniversary'."
"Okay so this card is twenty years old."

I was surprised that I was not met with any resistance from my grandmother. I think this year's Christmas cards were providing the perfect distraction. I sorted the cards, pulling out any photos that were promptly filed in one of my other ongoing projects that has already outgrown its designated drawer. I carried two bags of cards to the door with no protest. I received a text tip from my mother that the desk in the back hall may be holding more excess paper. Sure enough, I pulled out another bag's worth of cards. These were mainly all cards from my grandparents' children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, as well as those they exchanged with each other, for every category of special day.

I had asked a preschool teacher friend of mine if she could use some cards for any projects, She said she would gladly take them, but I did not think the stash I loaded into my van was what she had in mind. As soon as I got home, I brought the bags into my kitchen because the Christmas clutter I had  going on was not enough of an anxiety inducing mess. My first goal was to photograph the cards in a way that would capture just how many there were...
...How did I do? Is this better?
The other task was to pull out any that I thought preschoolers and their fabulous scissor skills could make use of. I started to actually pay attention to the cards, instead of just moving them from one place to another. I had to pull some out of their envelopes to make sure there were no gifts left inside. I saw dates of 1992, 1985, 1984. I read notes in Christmas cards to my grandmother from my grandfather telling her she was getting a floor lamp, and another trip to Karl's Clocks. I also saw that he forgot their anniversary one year, but still got a card to apologize with. Things were starting to get dangerous, as I began to wonder if we should keep all of the cards. It was almost as if, because I was in my own house with this haul, I lost sight of there being far better mementos to hold on to. I looked at each of those cards, mainly filled with words written by nobody we know, to find those few penned in snippets. I told myself that the shear volume of this collection did not make it any more important than it originally seemed to be. Now if our recycling could have just been picked up today, instead of next week.

Please note: This post was written by the person who just dealt with a over a decade's worth of Christmas cards last year. Oddly enough, my grandmother does not have a stash of this category...  or at least not one that I have found yet.


  1. Oh trust me, the stash of Christmas cards will be there. As someone who has hung onto her First Communion cards for 30 years, I would really appreciate a visit soon. We can tackle the high school graduation cards another day.

  2. For our wedding, I took all of the cards we were given and cut out either the congratulatory wishes on the inside or part of the front of the card, and then made a collage the size of a couple of scrapbook pages. (Which is where they are now.) Occasionally I think about doing something similar with Christmas cards, but then I got a Lego photo with a happy family of four and a very tiny dog. I'll have to think about how to memorialize that one... :-)

  3. I admit that I kept all the Christmas cards (photo cards) from when my kids' friends were young and I put them in a couple of photo albums. You are such a good granddaughter! My grandmother will be coming here tomorrow. She's 93. :D I'm her very favorite, too. ;P

    Our naughty elf is having fun with the cheetah ball. That so did not sound right…..

    Merry Christmas!