The power of greeting cards...
It seemed no holiday, birthday, or anniversary was complete until there was a Hallmark card to open. Store-bought sentiments rank high with loved ones. At one point though, life got busy and the idea of shopping for cards, signing and then giving or sending someone else’s thoughts didn’t seem right. Paying for them just added to my discomfort about the whole greeting card thing. It’s definitely a very profitable business.
I proposed an idea to my wife: For our anniversary why not go to a Hallmark store, choose several cards and exchange them in-store? After reading them simply put them back and be on our way! Of course that did not go over too well and so I’ve been held hostage by Hallmark for thirty-four years and then some.
At one time a friend suggested I write for Hallmark, adding that they pay well for sentiments they use. For some reason I felt that as an aspiring poet and songwriter it would be selling out. And so I buy my sentiments, sign my name at the bottom and deliver them on time.
I never put much clout in the power of greeting cards that is until my wife began her battle with Ovarian Cancer. She was diagnosed in March of 2012 and had surgery just weeks after. With 60 staples vertically arranged like a zipper down her abdomen, limited activity, and the fear that the chemotherapy that followed provided no guarantees, we did our best to stay positive.
Then the cards started to come. Everyday I’d hear the mail truck heading down the side street beside our home and I knew he would deliver in the cul-de-sac first and then stop at our mail box immediately after exiting it. The snap of the green metal door of our mailbox indicated we had mail.
As mail goes, it came pretty close to the same time everyday and so I got into a routine where I would get the mail and open up one card at a time. After showing her the front and telling her who it was from I’d read the printed sentiments first and then the additional hand-written thoughts. After I completed the card I would give it to her to look at. Even on her worst days, her glowing response and big smile was immediate.
Within a couple of weeks we had received well over one-hundred cards from her friends, family, and co-workers. I set them up in the seat of our four foot bay window that overlooks our side yard. The cards kept coming and each day around 3:30 we would sit in the living room and read through them. After a month we had received over two-hundred cards and the uplifting affect they had on our moods was undeniable. Each one had some hand-written thoughts and wishes, and that was most inspiring.
It was when we approached two-hundred and fifty cards that it became apparent that none of the cards had come from my side of the family. I did my best not to think about it, but I couldn’t avoid it. We were the recipients of all kinds of love and the vehicle for that emotion had been greeting cards. I was wrong. Greeting cards can do wonderful things for human emotions especially during difficult times.
Then we received a card from my Uncle Mike and his wife Elaine. My family was finally on the board, but that would be the only card my family would send until we received a holiday card from my cousin Mark and his family on December 23rd, 2013, one year and nine months after the original diagnosis. It is your standard holiday greeting card, horizontally orientated. On the outside are five sparkling gold evergreens evenly spaced on sloping ground, set on smooth matte blue paper with the words “Holiday Greetings” across the bottom- A classy looking card. On the inside are the store-bought sentiments “Warmest Thoughts… Best Wishes… Wonderful Holiday… Happy New Year…” And then below are the hand-written thoughts. “We were so sorry to hear recently… We hope she will have a good response to her treatment…”
I always liked and respected my cousin Mark. We graduated high school the same year, him in the north shore, me in the south. When we were young we spent vacations together at our grandparent’s second story apartment in downtown Haverhill. Mark is a brilliant guy. He finished top in his high school class and then went on to M.I.T. on an academic scholarship. After he graduated Mark arranged it so I took over his job bartending at Father’s Four in Cambridge so I could earn some money while I attended Northeastern and lived in a studio apartment on Beacon Street in Kenmore Square by Al Capone’s Pizza, where it seemed every rat in Boston scampered up and down the sidewalk rummaging for pizza scraps.
Mark’s father Sid was a great guy. I was fortunate to have two incredible Uncles. Uncle Mike and Uncle Sid were the best. When Uncle Sid died of cancer in 1980 Mark took a job locally even after big engineering firms from all over the country came calling, to be close to his mother and sister at a difficult time. He got into body-building and won a trip to California to workout with “Arnold”. I spoke to him afterwards and he told me about Arnold’s preference for peppermint schnapps. When Mark became bored with body-building he started long-distance running, transforming his body into more of a Frank Shorter type stature, long and lean. He raced and one time my wife and I went to Oliver Ames High School in Easton to watch him run a 5K. The last time I spoke to him he was into rock-climbing and his wife and two sons were doing well.
I often wondered why I hadn’t heard from him and now I know why. He didn’t know my wife was battling for her life and when he found out he took the opportunity to send a holiday greeting card and include hand-written thoughts and wishes that were much appreciated. His kind gesture had come at a good time and in a lot of ways has restored my faith in family.
My wife is doing well and has been in remission for 14 months.
In addition to being a great vehicle for love and inspiration, greeting cards are also a great way to keep in touch with family and friends…