Just this afternoon I found a crinkled, abandoned greeting card in the stacks of the library. More than likely someone had used it as a bookmark and had forgotten to take it out when they returned the book. It's a Valentine's day card with a picture of a Yorkie wearing a heart collar on the front. Inside it only says the following in someone's handwriting:
I love you with all of my heart. You always give me the best support, and we have great laughs together. Thanks for always being here for me. You're beautiful! You're amazing!
I'm not really a card giver. I don't ever really need that much help writing what I want to say, least of all in the myriad corny ways that Hallmark and American Greetings have come to define "expression". Ok so maybe when I want to say the things I feel when I feel them, they get caught at the base of my throat until I swallow them back down. But you can be pretty certain I've written it somewhere. Maybe I've even given you a copy. But if I haven't and you know me and suspect something I never told you, like I might be in love with you, or that I've never forgiven you, or I secretly want to be you, just wait until after I croak at 98 and go through my papers; I will have confessed it there in the pile of scrawled upon ephemera. (Spoiler alert: it won't matter by then.) I don't wear my heart on my sleeve. I keep it folded up in a small piece of scrap paper in my pocket where it pulses in tiny, quiet rhythms. Nevermind that it makes people completely misunderstand me in the moment. Just you wait until after I'm gone. Then you'll see. You'll ALL see. Side note: there might be a communication intervention necessary in my future.
And greeting cards have always seemed too much and too little at the same time. They try to say big, important, personal things in one rhyming stanza. I mean I do give them, but 100% of the time, I give them because they are expected of me. That's the rubric for life in polite society isn't it? Birthdays, deaths, weddings, christenings, graduations, engagements, bar mitzvahs, at LEAST give a card. Otherwise you weren't thinking of anyone but yourself. I try to give blank ones that I have to fill with my own thoughts. Because what could that card possibly have said in pre-written ink that could be better than "I love you with all of my heart. You're beautiful! You're amazing"?
I know it takes some effort to pick out a good card. I've gotten some really beautifully designed ones for my birthday, for my graduations, for thanks. I have loved getting even those sparsely written cards from loved ones and former coworkers and I've saved almost all of them. But the best part about those keepsakes is seeing the handwriting of the person writing it, even if they just sign it. I love handwriting. Whenever I see someone's handwriting, whether I know them well or just met them, I feel like I've been given a secret glimpse inside their world, a detail of the mural in their brain. I lament the slow death of the handwritten letter. I have kept so many letters I've gotten over the years and I will go back and reread them now and again. I love to imagine the person sitting at a table, scratching at a piece of paper with a ball point pen. It's almost like I can hear their voice more clearly if I can see their handwriting. I love postcards. I hope those never go out of fashion. I think what I love most about these handwritten messages is that it takes effort to sit still and write something down and I just like to be on someone's mind every now and again. And I like thinking of someone else long enough to write it down.
What is the point of all this? I don't have one. I saw an old, lost love note on the floor of the library and my instinct was to bring it home, keep it with my old, lost letters and revisit it every now and again. When I look at the little dog, I know I'll wonder if the person ever misses the card, if he or she even noticed it was gone. And I'll get a little weepy, wondering if they are still in love, if they still have great laughs together.
Also, I am suddenly in the mood to fill up some blank cards and post cards. Want one?