Do Birthday Cards Matter?

Over the years we’ve exchanged gifts at various times, both for birthdays and for no particular reason. Each gift has very often had layers of meaning, deeply embedded symbolism, our personal mythology, in-jokes and nicknames we call each other.

The gifts have always been works of art, some by others (photography books, novels, books of poetry, CDs) but most often the art we have gifted to each other has been our own:  original poems, songs, drawings, and paintings have all been exchanged over the past quarter century.

The most extravagant gift was one he gave to me. It was an open-hole Gemeinhardt flute. Included with the flute was an intricate four-stanza poem. The stanzas could be read in any order – and the poem worked perfectly. The flute was a pure gift to a sister spirit.

(Full disclosure: In a moment of youthful, foolish weakness, I sold it and we didn’t speak for several years. I still regret the lost flute, and the hard feelings I caused by selling it so many years ago. But this all happened a very long time ago now….)

So it is now the 25th year I have known my good friend. We are both much older and wiser.  Well I know I am much older and I know he is much wiser. I won’t vouch for my wisdom and am too polite to point out he’s aged.

And this year, on May 26, he turns 50.

I’ve been aware for months this day was coming, and keenly aware of it this week, yet the time to prepare that original, personal gift recognizing it got away from me.

Today, the day before his birthday, as I was racing around taking care of my life, I thought perhaps I wouldn’t have time to get so much as a card in the mail.   It has been one of those years — and my friend knows this — that things in my life are out of control. Truth be told, I know he would not want me to go to a lot of trouble, but you know….the particular moment seems to require it, and I am that way with particular moments.

I may be one of the few people left in the world (and yes, I know, it’s a girl thing, maybe a girl of a certain age thing) who believes that important birthdays need to be properly recognized, at minimum, with a birthday card: one made of paper.  A simple posting on a Facebook wall, or an eGreeting (there are a gazillion options), while appropriate in many situations, just doesn’t seem right for a significant friend turning a significant age.

Maybe it’s the writer in me….a  sort of genetically coded worship of paper, and words on paper, that absolutely requires me to handwrite a birthday greeting on a heavy piece of paper, enclose it in an envelope, and mail it, knowing that when it arrives several hundred miles away – hopefully on the birth-day – my friend will open it with his own hand, and touch what my hand and words have touched, and feel a happy moment of connection with that he can’t get from an email.

An opportunity arose this morning….the five minutes I needed to find a card, the five minutes I needed to write something in it and address it, and the five minutes I needed to drop by the post office and mail the card.

So yes the card is in the mail. I am relying on my faith in the US Postal Service to do its magic and get it to the next state in a day or so. Many would think it unnecessary to go beyond an email, eGreeting, or social network note. I’m not one of those people, and if it makes me a relic, then so be it.

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