The Written Word – More Longevity Than Any Gift
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The Written Word – More Longevity Than Any Gift

Gift giving can be difficult. At this time of year, I am not telling you anything you do not already know. Many people put emphasis on buying the right gift for that special someone, a colleague for a Secret Santa gift exchange at work, or maybe a babysitter or chiropractor. A smaller number of people focus on the time spent with loved ones and the thought behind their gift by turning to homemade gifts, or my favourite, giving experiences such as a concerts, outings or favours. I am not knocking the gift. I bought some today and have them wrapped and ready to post to other cities for people I love so they feel adored and remembered. But I am also doing something else.

Do not underestimate the value of a heart-felt card with a personal, handwritten message. Words are powerful. More importantly, they are lasting. We get a number of mailed cards from friends and relatives each holiday season and the ones that I really touch me are the ones where the writer took the time to pen a few sentences, or even paragraphs versus just slapping their name on at the end of a mass produced set of rhyming couplets. How do I know this? Every year I go through the same thing. I hang on to almost all of our cards, and then eventually recycle the ones that are not from close family and friends. The ones that end up in my “memory box” are from my parents, husband, son or friends that are extra special. I actually saved old letters from dear friends from high school and my young adult life. Why? Because they mean something. In a digital age where everything is abbreviated, acronymic, or pixelated, not penned, it is lovely to receive something that is the result of someone’s time and thought.

When we write a card for our son, we make sure we write something special, sincere. It is written so that when he picks it up after many years, he will remember how much we loved being his parents and what a gift it was having him and guiding him through life. It is the same practice that we encourage him to do when giving a card to a friend or relative. Who does not love getting a card from a child where the penmanship, spelling and grammar are off the rails?

We have a family member coming to stay with us during the holidays so we are madly cleaning the house to prepare for them as well as hoping to entertain some friends and would prefer to not be put forth as candidates for “Hoarders”. In my frenzy of tidying up I came across some cards from my son and husband. It is very special to see their handwriting and embellishments of hearts and cartoon renderings of the cats. But you know what? I have no idea what gift might have accompanied each card for their occasion. It was the card that I kept and the card that still tugs at my heart strings years later during a spring clean or organizational frenzy.

My mom was famous for her cards. In fact there was a time I dreaded getting them because of years of unresolved issues between us. I would see a pastel coloured envelope in the mailbox and recognize my name written in her cursive and have an anxiety attack. But those days are over. She would choose the bright, happy cards that you expect to find at drug stores and malls, complete with rhymes and flowery verse. By the time my mom was done expressing her love, how handsome our son is, and how much she missed us, there was very little background of white, or pink or purple left. It was not uncommon to have to turn the card over only to find that she had written around the bar code, the copyright, the recycling logo and the price.

Just when I thought my trip down memory lane was over, I moved to the upstairs to tackle the mayhem there. In a box, amongst various bits and bobs, was a pink card. I knew before I opened it, what it was. I had not put it away yet. It could not be thrown out or recycled. I was from my mom. It was the last card she ever wrote to me. It was a birthday card for me from this past summer. Our family travelled to visit her about a month after my birthday and much of the card was about how she and my step-dad were counting the days until our visit. Well, those days came and went all too quickly.

Two months later my mom passed away unexpectedly and that card was the last one I had from her. This holiday season I will not be getting one with a cheery fireplace scene with kittens in front of it, filled with her adoration. And it breaks my heart. So I think what I will do is open my box of old cards and read all the ones that I have saved over the years, because I think that may have been a part of her motivation for her well-intended verbosity.

So if you are running around feeling pressured to buy just the right gift for a list of people, slow down and think about a simple card with minimal commercial verses and more room to express some real feelings. The gifts will be forgotten. Cards with lots of writing inside of them, i’s dotted with hearts and smiley faces are harder to recycle. And the best gift is finding them later.


Street Talk

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