Growing up, I didn’t care much for greeting cards. As far I could tell, most other children felt the same, especially upon receiving a gift. I’d gloss over the card and then feverishly tear through the wrapping paper. It was all about the package.
I can remember my mother scolding me for dismissing the card, but I didn’t care. It was just a card—a simple accoutrement with no intrinsic value, or so I thought. My mother was always quick to explain otherwise. That card meant something; I just couldn’t see it then.
Even as an adult, I never fully appreciated the card. I hate to say it, but if it didn’t contain money, it was hard to pique my interest. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the words inside, but it was just easy to move on. It was a convention—something people did just because that’s what people do. The card goes with the gift. Don’t forget the card.
With all the weddings, showers, and other events requiring gifts, my wife often asks me to pick up a card. After dropping $40 on a gift we need a card—another $3.99 plus the effort to find the appropriate verbiage. It always seems like such a burden to then have to fill it out. Obviously monetary gifts require some sort of vessel in which to house the bills, so a card makes sense. Do people even care about the card, though?
I can remember a Seinfeld episode where Jerry received a card from his girlfriend. He read it, but it found its way into the trash not long thereafter. When his girlfriend noticed it atop the garbage pile, she was less than thrilled. She voiced her discontent and stormed off, while Jerry stood there trying to find the right words. He never found them.
Jerry did save his nana’s cards, though, which reminds me of how my grandmother often included handwritten notes with hers. The cards usually included checks but also a small piece of stationery inside, her distinct cursive on the page. They were always brief but thoughtful. Now that I’m older, I can picture her at the dining room table—I see her on the other end of that hand-penned note, thinking of me.
Grandmother’s proclivity for hand-written notes got me thinking about a good friend, and colleague, who also dabbles. At least, that’s how he would put it. As educators, the two of us serve on planning committees aplenty. Whether I’ve subbed for him or just helped with a program or event, I always find a card in my mailbox. It’s there without fail, even when I consider my contributions minimal. He takes the time. Maybe I should, too.
While getting ready for work one morning, I remembered a card I had purchased for my wife. There was no occasion, really. I just thought it would be a nice lift, a bucket-filling moment. I was running later than usual, but I had time. I tiptoed into the bedroom, careful not to wake her and praying the door hinge wouldn’t squeak, and removed the card from my dresser drawer. After pouring my coffee, I wrote.
The card, itself, was simple: “Miss you…” on the front, with a cuddly puppy featured prominently, and “so much” on the inside, with plenty of space for a personalized message. We hadn’t been apart, but with work and the kids, we were, in fact, “missing” each other. I wrote a brief message, sealed it, and leaned it against a vase on the kitchen table.
About an hour later, I received a flurry of texts, peppered with exclamation points and heart emoji. That simple message—written in that 99-cent card—set the tone for her morning. It’s amazing how something so small can be so impactful, and timely. The card was just a vehicle. A sticky note, a 3×5, or a piece of paper would have sufficed. It was the sentiment. It came from me, and it was for her.
As a stay-at-home mother of three, who occasionally works as a substitute teacher, my wife’s days are full. I’m under no delusion as to how much of her attention the kids require. I know she feels overwhelmed. I know she questions her effectiveness. I know she feels worn. A simple word of encouragement, or acknowledgment of her efforts, has immeasurable value—more than I ever realized. It provided a much-needed boost, at a much-needed time.
My mother was right about the card. It’s not something to gloss over or flippantly dismiss. Taking a few moments to physically write a note, especially in a time when texts, emails, and snaps are the norm, says something. I see it, now. Those words can permeate. Those words can reassure. Those words can lift. My wife’s response was not a simple “thank-you” or “that was sweet”—it was an outpouring of gratitude for seeing her.
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