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Although my birthday was just about a month ago, I have not forgotten about one of the best cards to enter my mailbox, and I think it’s only fair to publicly thank its sender.

Back in July, I posted about this year being the first without receiving a birthday card from my aunt, who died earlier this year. She was meticulous about addressing and signing the card, using a ruler to pencil in straight lines on the envelope. My friend Emma commented:

As much as I love Emma, I really didn’t expect her to follow through on her words. But, lo and behold:

Ruler and everything! Nice handwriting, too, which I imagine was a PITA for Emma, who works as a pharmacist and has most likely unconsciously adopted the scribbly scrawl of the doctor’s prescription pad. (The card itself was a Shoebox one involving jokes of laughter and pee and overall fun, juvenile humor.)

Along a similar note, I received a card on my desk the other day from a woman in my office. Her father had just died, and I had no idea why I would be the recipient of a card. Inside the little “just a note” card, she had thanked me for passing along the news of her father’s death to a former colleague, who in turn attended the viewing:

“Having [former colleague] at my father’s viewing meant so very much to me. It wouldn’t have been possible if you hadn’t shared the news with her.”

She could have easily told me this in person or shot me an e-mail expressing her thanks, but the added touch of paper and handwriting–especially during such a tough time–made the gesture so much more profound. I was touched that she was touched enough to go the extra step.

If reviving the lost art of letter writing and 3-D, tactile cards and paper is of interest to you, you should check out my YTT classmate Stephanie’s blog, My Year of Letters. She’s making a commitment “to write one letter a day as a way to practice mindfulness, to reconnect with friends and family, to spread a little joy and love around the world.” I think it’s ever-so-pertinent during a time when the government is studying the possibility of closing 3,700 post offices across the nation.

I used to carry around a set of small 2 x 2 cards in my handbag, to write quick little thank-yous or just-a-notes if the occasion arose, like if a cashier or salesperson was particularly helpful or kind. I remember writing out one to my manager when she took on some of my work assignments during a busy time, but I honestly don’t remember using them elsewhere. I think I’ve been inspired to refill my handbag–and actually put the idea into action this time.

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My birthday is in exactly one week, and so far the only greeting card I’ve received in the mail is one from the physical therapy office I attended more than a year ago. Hey, turning 30 last year was bad enough, but now that I’m officially entering my 30s, getting a reminder about how the body breaks down isn’t exactly the most pleasant punch in the arm (although if someone does punch me 31 times in the arm next Saturday, at least I know a place that can help me with any resulting shoulder injuries).

But actually, the sender of that first birthday card isn’t really what bummed me out–it’s the fact that it made me remember that my stash of birthday cards will be one less this year. As soon as I opened that envelope and saw the birthday greeting, my heart sunk. It’s July, it’s birthday time, and there will be no card from my Aunt Adzia this summer.

The cards Adzia sent me were never glamorous in any way; they didn’t come with birthday confetti inside, and they had nothing to do with any of my interests, the way Bryan selects cards with pugs or how my mother-in-law tries to find something Disney related. They were your typical flowery, butterfly-dotted, overdone cursive cards, the ones you can hardly read because the scripted font is so dramatic, the kind that start off with introductory questions, as though the card is making a high school graduation speech: “What is a niece?” I’m not particularly fond of these cards, but apparently my aunt put much thought into them; my grandmom said that whenever she and Adzia went to Rite-Aid to go card shopping, Adzia would stand in front of the greeting card display and open card after card, reading the messages, making sure they were “just right” for each recipient.

Sometimes I’d get two cards–one that was mailed, and another she’d pass along to my grandmom to give to me. This one usually came with a bow taped onto the envelope–and not just any old bow. We’re talking fancy, curly packaging bows, the kind that cost $1.99 at card stores. On days I was feeling silly, I’d tape the bow onto my shirt or in my hair, or just hang it in my cubicle for a week. Sometimes the extravagance of the bows meant more to me than the bank envelope of birthday cash she’d slip inside.

Before 9/11 and a sudden fear among my family that people might try to mail me anthrax disguised as a Hallmark card, Adzia never used to put return addresses on her envelopes. Still, it was no mystery which cards came from her. Maybe it’s because she went to Catholic school and perhaps was scolded by the nuns for bad penmanship, but Adzia would address every envelope by first penciling a straight line with a ruler, using the faint lines as a foundation for her trademark wide and bubbly cursive handwriting. The inside was no different, but here she usually erased the penciled-in lines after signing her name.

Adzia's penmanship perfectionism carried over onto the boxes of decorations she stored in the basement.

For a while, it was odd to see only Adzia’s name on the inside of my cards. I had grown up knowing my Aunt Adzia, her sister, and their brother–who had all lived together–as the gang of three. For most of my childhood, these cards–although in Adzia’s handwriting–would close with “Love Always and Forever, Aunts Adzia, Stasia, and Uncle Cas.” When Uncle Cas passed away, the signature shortened to “Aunts Adzia and Stasia.” Stasia died in 2007, and since then my birthday cards came from one person, with one signature.

Adzia was good with birthday cards–they usually arrived a week before the occasion, right in between the cards from my realtor and chiropractor and those from my immediate family. It would probably be in my mailbox today, in fact. But the cards have been dealt; the time has come for the perfectly aligned greetings to fade into history. I may never see Adzia’s freshly penned signature again, but at least her love is Always and Forever.

Adzia keeping an eye on my sister, as she reads her own birthday card.

About the Author

Name: Jennifer

Location: Greater Philadelphia Area

Blog Mission:
SHARE my practice experience in conscious dance and yoga,

EXPAND my network of like-minded individuals,

FULFILL my desire to work with words in a more creative and community-building capacity;

FLOW and GROW with the world around me!

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