It started as a lark in 1975. We were in Gr. 11. We didn’t have a lot of money, and what little money we had, we didn’t really want to spend. We called it being “basically cheap”. So my friend bought me a cheap birthday card, a “Peanuts” character – themed card with Linus on the front standing under a sign that reads: “No Littering” and inside: “This is the age of Ecology..don’t throw this card away…Recycle it to a friend!”. Believe it or not, recycling wasn’t even a craze then. It was a funny expression that was used sporadically amongst local David Suzuki followers but truly nothing more than that. So when I received the card from her I laughed. What an odd concept…recycle a birthday card!?
I have not sat down and calculated how many miles THE CARD, as we have affectionately come to call it, has traveled these many years. Jean and I have exchanged THE CARD in person quite a few times, but we have mailed it back and forth more often between Calgary, Alberta (where I live) and Victoria, B.C (where she lives). In 1990 I laminated the original card as it was showing some signs of falling apart and we inserted a new card. When that card was filled with b.day well wishes, we added a third card in 2006. All three cards, the original and the two “inserts”, are fondly referred to as THE CARD, and twice a year we mail them to each other; in April to celebrate her birthday and in August to celebrate mine.
THE CARD is a unique symbolic expression of our lives together as friends and briefly describes what has happened in both our lives over these many years. In 1984 I signed the card, “Happy Birthday, Jean from your pregnant friend, Lynn”; in August 1991 Jean signed, “Happy Birthday, Lynn! from your friend Jean! (gotta run, the baby’s crying); in 1995 (THE CARD was twenty years old) I wrote “from one pregnant friend to the other”; in 1998 “Happy 40th to us both!”. In April 2001, I wrote, “Happy Birthday, Jean, from your soon-to-be hairless friend, Lynn!!” and she returned the card in August with “Happy Birthday to my soon-to-be non-hairless friend!!” That was the year I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2008 we exchanged THE CARD on the same day with the “Babes of ’58″…five friends together for the first time since high school celebrating our 50th birthdays together.
THE CARD has become one of my most prized possessions. I have learned to keep it in a safe place; both Jean and I are almost paranoid that we will one day misplace THE CARD. I know on one occasion I was in a near panic trying to find it after a house move so now it gets safely tucked away in a keepsake box right beside my bed. We are equally paranoid if Canada Post should somehow lose it. I’ve thought about sending it by courier but that would defeat the purpose of being “basically cheap”.
Someone asked if our card exchange might be a worthy candidate for the Guinness Book of World Records and I suppose it might be…perhaps there is actually a category that would fit sending the same Birthday Card back and forth for so many years, I don’t know. That’s not what this is all about anyway.
THE CARD commemorates friendship and life!
…oh, and being basically cheap!