Birthday cards are a problem for me. I can never find the one which contains a balance of humour and intimacy, magically revealing the personalities of the recipient and myself. I’m a competitive card giver, and someone else always finds a funnier, better one.
I also despise spending $3.95 on something that’ll be history in two weeks – though that doesn’t deter me from purchasing other items that render themselves useless in even less time, like lattes, gasoline, bridal wear. My cheapness aside, I seem to be incapable of going to a store and buying a card in advance, especially if it has to be mailed. So even if I do purchase a card, the task of posting it necessitates a scavenger hunt, where I search for the address, stamps, a pen, a mailbox. By the time I find those items, the bloody card has disappeared and remains in hiding for weeks, making it even more useless.
And then there are e-cards. I despise them. They may even be worse than sub-literate Christmas card letters. They are far too public: I always seem to open them at work when my volume is maxed out on a level guaranteed to damage hearing. And they’re impersonal. And goofy. And seem to contain jokes aimed at a preschool audience.
My husband has tried to help me. He buys cards at thrift stores. Most of them haven’t even been used. I’m pretty sure they are cards that were in the possession of elderly people who died. I can almost picture dutiful daughters-in-law finding these card collections in shoeboxes found in the hall closets, then putting them in the pile marked “Goodwill.”
Our card collection has helped my go-to-the-store organizational problem. But while we seem to have many cards, the ratio of usable to useless cards is shrinking. Take last Friday. My daughter had to go to a birthday party for a five-year-old. So I look through our cards, bypassing the “For My Son on His Graduation” and the twenty-two “Get Well Soon” cards, and I settle on something semi-benign: a card with red birds on it…Because everyone knows that Kindergartners list “orioles” as their favourite animal. I think the card supported the Lung Association (or the person who bought it and then died did years ago).
This lengthy rant is a preamble to an apology. I’m sorry I don’t send birthday cards to my friends. I’m sorry I give pathetic cards. And I’m even sorrier I haven’t sent one to my mom, whose birthday is tomorrow. Now she’s not expecting one – I’ve probably mailed her two in the past eighteen years – hence she’s conditioned, but I still feel bad. So mom, I’m sorry. Though we’ll talk on the phone, there’s nothing in your Arizona mailbox. There’s nothing in your Manitoba mailbox either in case you think I forgot which country you’re in.
But here, publicly, I can at least say, Happy Birthday, Mom.