DIY-Birthday Cards

“I need 2 bananas, a loaf of bread, extra sharp cheddar cheese, chicken thighs, the ones on sale, and more postage stamps. And I needs another packet of blank cards from Michaels.” I jot down my mom’s list and place it in my purse with her credit card. Since last March, my routine has been to stop by my mom’s condo, just 3 miles from where I live, on Thurdays. We enjoy the take-out meal I bring, followed by a card game of 2-handed Pinochle. Currently, I am winning by one, 14 games to 13. Then I leave with my errands list to execute on Sunday. Always to the grocery shop and sometimes a craft store errand. This allows my mom, at age 85, to stay home and safe which is the best antidote for staying well during this pandemic.

My mom has always kept track of her friends’ birthdays, long before facebook began sending electronic reminders. Even though wishes can easily be sent now through an email or a text message, she still utilzes snail mail to send her friends paper birthday cards. And she isn’t letting this pandemic stop her. Instead, she has turned this kindness into a new pandemic hobby. I call it “DIY-cards”. First, she searches through her many photo albums with her birthday friend in mind. After finding a kodak moment, she removes the photo and glues it to the front of a pre-folded cardstock blank card which the Michael’s craft store sells. After adding a personal handwritten note to the inside, she slides it into the accompaning envelop, adds the address and then walks it down to her condo mailboxes to place it in the outgoing mail.

This month, I became the recipient of one of my mom’s creations. Immediately, I recognized her slanted left-handed cursive writing as I retrieved the mail from my mailbox. As I pulled the card from its holder, I was surprised to see the photo. It was of my two daughters, probably at age 12 and 15 and a much younger me, all smiling. Sporting their favorite college-wear, Bridgit was in her much-loved Columbia sweatshirt and Anne in her UVA soccer t-shirt. Me, looking through my wire-rimmed glasses, look vacation-relaxed. And in the background flowed the Mississippi River. This photo took me back to our All-Girl Road Trip to see the St. Louis Arc over a dozen years ago. My mom, often asking us to stop and pose, did so here as we departed the Tom Sayer Riverboat, our lunchean spot after touring the St. Louis Arc.

Looking at this handmade birthday card, I paused and instantly I was back in Missouri. standing outside the sleek silver structure, climbing into the small capsule which took us up the one side of the arc, disembarking to peer out the windows, revealing a birds-eye view of St. Loius. Then climbing back into another capsule and sailing down the Arc’s other side. This one birthday card took me back to this other time and other place. What a lovely birthday gift!

On Sunday, wearing my mask, I stopped first at Safeway and gathered all the grocery and then stopped at Michaels. As I grabbed a 10-pack of blank cardstock cards and headed to the checkout, I wondered who would recieve a photo memory from my mom next. Whoever it was, I knew the recipient would enjoy where my mom’s creativity would take them. To another place, at another time and that is definitely the kind of birthday card that is needed in 2020!