When people post on Facebook “Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms I know” or “Wishing everyone a happy new year” I’m sure they mean it. But to be honest, it doesn’t do much for me. The same holds for such FB messages as “My thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by [fill in name of disaster]” and “Happy Holidays to all my friends who celebrate [fill in name of holiday].” The people posting aren’t actually speaking to, looking at or directing their sentiments to anyone in particular, but to everyone in general, on Planet Facebook anyway. Welcome to anti-social media.
Of course it’s nice for people to post on your Facebook wall on your birthday; I genuinely enjoy seeing what people post. But, let’s face it, there’s nothing like a card. An e-card is marginally more personal, but, like generalized Facebook posts, it’s an electronic bubble — you see it, it’s nice, then it bursts and is gone. A card is forever, or at least as long as you want to keep it.
Although well-intended, there’s something hollow about Facebook greetings. Facebook (as well as generalized email) greetings are time-savers, but they just don’t have the impact of an actual card. You know, the ones that require postage and can be displayed on the mantel or the fridge, the ones you sign and sometimes embellish with a personal message. These are also the greetings whose envelopes you tear with anticipation, that make you smile, laugh or sigh with satisfaction. I understand that everyone’s pressed for time, but must everything be reduced to clichés that fade into the ether? Are cards so hard to find? Been to a supermarket or CVS lately?
I’m crazy about cards; I guess that makes me the Crazy Card Lady. (I’m already the Crazy Cat Lady, but that’s another story.) I’ve always loved to browse the card sections of various stores looking for just the right one for someone. The humor, the sentiment, the quotes, the artwork, the imagination and the creativity — when you find the right card, it’s like finding a hidden treasure. Sometimes I’ll buy a card just because it’s so good, assuming I’ll eventually figure out who to send it to. Yes, I have sent Facebook greetings and texted Happy Birthdays, especially to cherished millennials. For certain people in my life, though, I use the good, old U.S. mail.
People have told me that the card I sent for a birthday, as a get well wish or for other card-worthy occasions was the only one they’d received that they could hold in their hand. A few years ago my daughter called from college to thank me for the Rosh HaShanah (the Jewish new year) card I’d sent her. I had looked for one that was specifically from parents to a daughter, but worried that it was a bit on the banal side. She said that she was truly touched by the sentiment. A friend’s mother has told me repeatedly that the cards I sent her when she was hospitalized really perked her up. Recently a relative, married and the mother of four, surprised me by saying how much she appreciated getting the birthday cards I sent every year when she was growing up.
The birthday cards which I receive are often feline-themed (see Crazy Cat Lady status above). As nice as it is to get a card, knowing that the person looked for one which you would especially enjoy makes it even more special. Did you ever get a “thinking of you” card when you were having a hard time? That’s almost as good as chocolate.
There are times when I search for cards and can’t find a gem among the corny and the vulgar. Maybe I’m getting too judgmental as I age. (Although I’ve always said that being judgmental is highly underrated.) Recently I was browsing a little shop in a train station in downtown Boston and found a card that wasn’t specifically for a birthday, but was just right for a dear friend who was about to celebrate hers. On the outside it said, “The best things in life…” and inside, “are friends.” Perfect!
Being sentimental, I have large plastic container which I call my “nostalgia box,” where I store postcards (remember those?), my kids’ pictures and projects, brochures from tourist spots and museums — myriad mementos. And cards. I’ve saved many of the birthday, Mother’s Day and anniversary cards my husband has given me in 33 years of marriage, along with cards from my kids. Many are funny, others wonderfully on-target, some just beautiful. They are as nice to reminisce over as family photos. Holding on to them might make me a hoarder, but I prefer to think of these cards as keepsakes and reminders of a time, person or sentiment that I will always treasure.
My husband and kids know how much I love cards. They choose cards for me with great care, which I appreciate. In fact, they know they can get away with not bothering with presents, as long as there’s a great card.
In ancient times, that is, before Facebook, Instagram, etc., a person might say to another, “You’re a card.” This was a compliment, unless pronounced sarcastically. It meant, “You’re a funny/clever/witty person.” I’m happy to get a card, be a card or, if a bartender wants to compliment me, to get carded. Please, oh world of online everything and virtual voices, don’t give up on greeting cards!
— Ann Green
Ann Green is a freelance writer, editor, PR consultant and tutor.