Memories a-la-card
March 17, 2013

“Bette, you are the sweetest thing to remember my birthday. You are always so thoughtful!”

With these words, my cousin-friend acknowledged the birthday card I had sent. It was fushia with tiny frosted flowers and the words “Happy Birthday to a Special Cousin,” but what was written inside was the best. “Thinking of our fun times together, the happy memories we share…” I had written the memories I had of our time together.

My brother and I would leave Chicago for the entire summer to spend our school vacation on our maternal grandparents’ farm in Iowa where we worked, played, adventured and learned thrifty (sometimes difficult) lessons from our dear relatives. My cousin would come to the farm to spend some of the time with us since she lived in the city closest to the farm. She was younger and would often have a bout of inconsolable homesickness requiring a trip back to town in the middle of the night. This was just one of the memories I shared with her.

About a month later, it was my birthday. I received a card from my cousin. When I opened it, it looked familiar. It was the card I had sent her.

“Didn’t she like it?” I wondered. “Why would she send it back to me? Why would she return it? Was there something offensive about it? Did it contain memories she would just as well forget?”

As I pulled the card from its envelope, a neatly-folded sheet of ivory paper fell onto our rustic wood floor. I retrieved it recognizing the writing on its invisible lines. My cousin had written her memories of the love and emotions we had exchanged in our growing-up years.

No email or phone call could have carried the timeless bonding we had bequeathed to each other on our birthdays that year. Seeing the memories written activated the sights and feelings, the joys and fears we shared when we visited our favorite farm.

New memories have been made over the years in our lives with our families, but the warmth of these shared memories has become an irreplaceable treasure not tarnished by time. Perhaps, our children and grandchildren will discover and prize these written gems.

“Family is a feeling that neither time nor distance can diminish,” a truth from the greeting card.