50 Birthday Cards
My first thought was, “Hey, I got a birthday card!”
It was Thursday evening and there was a stack of mail on the dining room table when I got home from work. The top-most was in the red envelope of greeting cards, hand addressed, so I picked it up to see who it was from. Then I saw a similar card behind it. Then another. And another. “What the hell?” I thought. I'd been expecting one, maybe two cards for my birthday. It was my 50th but I know people tend not to send cards much anymore. Me, either. You get e-cards and emails and birthday wishes on Facebook. But here, on one day, three days before my birthday, I'd gotten ... how many? Five? Ten? And three from my brother? What the fuck? What was he on?
It was when I noticed the numbers on the backs of the envelopes—11, 12, 14. 32, 33, 34—that the other shoe dropped.
“No,” I thought. “They're not sending me ... 50 cards ... for my 50th birthday ... are they?”
So cool. We were having a party Saturday night, and I was hoping to have a few birthday cards around as decoration: to let my friends know that, you know, I had friends.
I immediately suspected my sister Karen and called her up. They were in the basement watching “The Big Bang Theory,” Jordy's new favorite show, but she denied culpability. She knew about it certainly, she'd participated in it certainly, but she didn't organize it. So who did? My sister, who is an editor at the Star-Tribune in Minneapolis, has always been a good reporter, in part, I think, because she keeps digging at people until they give her answers. She just doesn't accept no. And she may be good at this because she knows the power of secrets and the overwhelming desire to spill them. Which is to say she gave up the name in seconds: my friend Kristin, who runs a Waldorf school in south Minneapolis, loves crafts projects, and is generally a sweetheart.
The next day, when I got 20 more cards, I phoned her.
Me: So how long have you been planning this?
She (feigning innocence, poorly): Why do you think it was me?
It was such a great idea, I was curious if, a) she'd thought of it, and b) had done it before. Yes and yes. She came up with it last year for her friend Chrissy's 60th birthday. Chrissy lives by herself in Boston, she has all these people who love her, so what was a good way to let her know that? Out of such dilemmas, great ideas are born.
I love the numbers on the envelopes. When I was putting them together on Friday, I felt like I was a kid again collecting baseball cards. Ok, I have 3, 4 and 5, but I still need 1 and 2. Plus 50. Don't have that one yet. And dude I'm totally missing most of the 20s! Saturday I got 1, 2 and 50. I still needed about 12 more to complete the set. I opened more than half yesterday and put them on my desk for the party. Saved some for today. Which I'll open soon.
It is such a lovely idea, feel free to steal it. It makes getting the mail, for the time involved, a pleasure rather than a chore.
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