We’ve Got Mail

“The family with an old person in it possesses a jewel.” — Chinese Proverb



Our anniversary was Saturday, and I was a smidge surprised when our mailbox held only a window-washer flyer and a Pottery Barn catalog. Just where was our card from Mom? It couldn’t be possible that she’d forgotten. Then, on Monday, there it was. Anniversary best wishes officially bestowed.

Card-sending seems to be a dying tradition for many of us. Once upon a time, I sent lots of birthday cards. Then, I got lazy and my card-sending became slapdash. Maybe I mail one, maybe I don’t. Anniversary cards? Rarely. It’s not that I don’t like cards; I do. But finding good ones is a project, and if it’s not funny or memorable, why bother? Besides, do people really care if they get cards or not? Isn’t a simple “Happy birthday!” posted on a Facebook timeline good enough? Then there’s the price – up to five bucks apiece. Yikes!

For my mother, card-sending is almost a religion. She keeps a thorough, meticulous list of recipients: her five kids, our five spouses, her ten grandchildren, their spouses, her eleven great-grands, her sister, a batch of nieces, nephews, great-nieces, great-nephews, and a sadly-dwindling bunch of old friends. Though she’s got all the dates written down, every one is filed in the Rolodex in her head. Casey? August 22. Oliver and Grayson – both seven in September. Mary Pat and Jay’s anniversary? I remember it’s June; Mom knows the exact date and year.

Now that my mother no longer drives, my sister, my brother, and I are her chauffeurs, flitting from Walmart to Walgreens, from Fair Play Foods to the bank on Roberts Road, armed with her weekly list of must-haves. Often there’s a stop at the Dollar Tree, where greeting cards are two for a dollar. Mom hands me her list of this month’s special people and we start browsing. Not just any card will do. Since macular degeneration keeps my mother from reading the cards’ messages, I read them aloud so she can decide on just the right ones.

“That one’s good.”

“That doesn’t sound like her.”

“Too mushy.”

“That one’s cute.”

“Do they have any that say ‘grand-niece’?”

Back at home, I address the envelopes, but the message and signature are hers. Great-grands get a check; grands under thirty get a check; her offspring get a check every five years for twenty-five years. We add an address label and a stamp, and this month’s cards are on their way to mailboxes in Arizona, Texas, Saudi Arabia, and Illinois.

So, on February 20 Laura gets her card, and on July 29 Brendan gets his card, and on December 16 Owen gets his card, signed “Mom” or “Grandma” or “Grosmuter.” Maybe not such a big deal, but isn’t it nice to have a little paper reminder of how loved we are?

Thanks, Mom.


4 thoughts on “We’ve Got Mail

  1. Thanks Ellen, I, too, am a card sender but I keep a file box with the information–however, I relate well to your mom.  I keep thinking I’m going to stop, but now I know that if I do, people will think there’s something wrong with me.  It’s the same with my Christmas letters and coffee cakes–kind of set the bar for myself and sometimes think it’s higher than I need it to be.  I loved your wedding picture–so fun to see you before we knew you. Esther


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