Greeting cards

Sooner or later, everyone receives a greeting card in the mail, whether it’s for a birthday or a get well wish or perhaps your basic thinking-of-you card or even a sympathy card when you suffer a loss. The cards I’ve received this fall have all meant a lot to me.

Especially now that we have faster-than-lightning electronic communication that’s just so easy and convenient, I find I especially appreciate the cards and letters that arrive in my mailbox in an envelope with a stamp. On some days I know that it takes what seems like herculean effort to find the right card and a stamp and an address, get them all together, and then post them to a mailbox. I don’t know why that is, but I expect it’s that reliance on electronic communication that we’ve let ourselves develop. Texting, email, social media, even cell phones and voice mail have all spoiled us.

Before the postage stamp and the penny postcard became popular, greeting cards were expensive, handmade gifts. But thanks to advances in printing and mechanization and the 1840 introduction of the postage stamp, the greeting card became much more popular. Louis Prang is credited with first developing the greeting card business in Boston in the mid-1850s. In 1875 Prang released the first complete line of Christmas cards to the American public. And ever since then, I’d say that the greeting card has been part of our culture.

While I don’t really consider myself to be a saver, like any self-respecting mother I have saved probably all of the greeting cards that my children have given me over the years. And many of them still make me smile, especially those I received before they were about age 7. Their handwriting is unique in those years, and especially the cards they made then are funny and touching. The cards my son made me, I notice, often had an interesting folding system, while the artwork on my daughter’s original cards often had a similar theme.

A favorite possession of mine is two postcard albums that belonged to my late grandma, who was born in 1896. They are full of picture postcards she received as a pre-teen and teenager. All have a penny stamp, and the colorful cards have all kinds of sentiments and artwork. There’s every holiday represented, lots of flowers, some pictures of famous Iowa buildings, and funny sayings like “Nobody’s missing the fun of kissing.” All of them are just flat postcards, not folded greeting cards like those familiar to us now.

That Grandma saved these 100 or so postcards and put them in books says how important it was to communicate with friends and family, and how laborious it was then.

If we’re lucky, we have folks in our lives with whom we want to stay in touch. Or need to stay in touch. And regardless of the method we do that, that’s what’s important to remember.