The One Tradition from My Grandmother I'll Never Let End
You can start this practice for your own family.
Cards once came for every occasion—birthdays, holidays, promotions. She sent a card when my cat died and cards when my relationships ended.
When I was young, I looked forward to receiving my grandmother’s birthday cards because of the check, the “gift,” they contained. As I grew older, the card was the gift.
Every person on the church’s lengthy prayer list got a card every week. Sometimes, I heard, she even asked for prayer lists from other churches and mailed a note to people on those.
It’s a small town. Addresses are easy to come by.
Her handwriting, once an example of pristine penmanship, became spidery with age, a sign her arthritis was worsening.
The morning she died, she had written more cards. Her wonderful nurses mailed them after she was gone.
At her funeral, friends and family told us of the many cards they received from her. Her gift, it seemed, stretched further than I knew.
My cousins and I sat around reminiscing about all of these cards, the mountain of paper we’d received in our lifetimes, after her funeral. We joked someone should alert the Postal Service that their volume of mail was about to drop significantly.
She could buy in bulk, of course. She had seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Her sisters have families of similar size—and they all received cards, too.
As we dug through old photos, we found notebook after notebook, album after album of cards she had received herself.
She saved every card people sent when my uncles passed, when my grandfather passed, when she was sick. She had three books filled with addresses. Liquid Paper created a patchwork quilt on the pages as people moved.
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And that’s when I decided I would start sending cards, too.
The cards, I realized as I grew older, weren’t just a fun thing to get in the mail. Sure, when my mailbox is typically filled with junk offers or, even worse, bills, a personalized card is a breath of fresh air.
But the cards from her were also a reminder that someone thought enough of me to take the time to write a card, stamp it, and send it out into the world. And in a world of emails and instant text replies, there’s something to be said for someone’s time.
My birthday calendar isn’t quite as full as hers, and my stash of cards doesn’t fill up two boxes yet. But they’re growing.
I’ve missed a few birthdays—my grandmother would be disappointed—but I give it my all to make sure everyone has a little piece of love in their mailbox when their birthday rolls around or when a fun holiday pops up on the calendar. (Halloween was her favorite, so I don’t miss that.)
I’ve surprised friends by mailing them a card when they’ve even removed their birthdays from Facebook. I pick out cards months in advance when I find “the one” for someone on my list. I’ve even found delight in the hunt for the right card, the one I know will put a smile on someone’s face.
It’s not much—a card is a few bucks and a stamp just 50 cents—but it’s a way to tell someone you thought about them, you cherish them, and if nothing else, you just wanted to make them feel special.
Card Sets to Get You Started
Keeping a set of cards on hand makes mailing notes regularly much easier. I have a variety of options—some funny, some serious, some blank for me to create. Get your card habit started with one of these great assortments:
It’s Birthday Time Greeting Assortment Boxed Notecards by artist Emily McDowell - $14, amazon.com — This is a personal favorite because they’re quirky and beautifully illustrated.
Hallmark All Occasion Boxed Greeting Card Assortment - $17, walmart.com — I started my collection of cards with this set. It has cards for baby showers, birthdays, weddings, condolences, and more. Keep the box and add to it for easy organization.
World Map Foliage Stationery Set - $15, papersource.com — You can mix and match floral patterns with 12 unique messages to create your own custom card.