cards

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Kids under a mushroom. Kids on the beach. Kids with Pooh. Kids with stroller. Kids holding hands. Liza in fatigues. I've always made my own cards. I started with cards for mom and dad, but that evolved; the sentiment felt real, and the reality carried over easily into other relationships. I made thank-you cards, christmas cards, and birthday cards, but never could get behind valentines...

When I met my future wife, I did birthday cards for her that featured us as kids doing something specific to the year. The little ring box was the year we got engaged. When we had our daughter, I started doing cards for her, too- a silly drawing of her at the age she was, doing something meaningful to the time. I liked to put some sort of puzzle inside: a rebus, riddle, cryptogram or sudoku with her name instead of numbers.

Very soon after I started working here, someone handed my a manila envelope with instructions to sign the card and pass it on. Inside the envelope was a birthday card for one of the folks that I may have been introduced to, but I wasn't sure. I was a bit surprised. Working with a bunch of adults that celebrated birthdays as if they were in elementary school was a bit disconcerting. Being asked to sign my name to an artificial and insincere sentiment was worse. And folks got down right indignant if I tried to beg off.

You see, signing the card wasn't the worst. Sure, folks were indignant because they didn't understand how I could be so heartless, but more, they were angry that I was skipping out on a responsibility. After you signed the card, you were now obligated to find someone who hadn't signed yet and hand the card to them. As the day wore on, it became more and more difficult. Most viewed the card as a "black spot," a curse that robbed them of time and gave them a task when they may least need an interruption. Card bearers stalked the halls of Computer Building, looking for victims. Someone got the idea to put everyone's name on the envelope and cross them off as people signed. This guarenteed that everyone signed, and had the benefit that card bearers now only had to lay the envelope on an empty office chair of someone whose name hadn't been crossed off.

People actually seemed to enjoy getting the coerced cards, as if it couldn't possibly have been a problem on their birthday. How silly. I guess people find it easier to participate in rituals. Kind of like spectator sports. I'd rather play them than watch them, and if it's going to be a ritual, I'm going to be the shaman, dammit.

3 Comments

Cole said:

Are all of these yours? The one second from last speaks to me in lots of ways. I just love the idea of the independent girl walking with friends/parents/siblings, but standing out. Seems just right to me.

The one with Winnie in it makes me smile as well ... the little boy reminds of myself and of my son. I like to think about him discovering something special his Father did for him along the way -- these cards feel that way to me.

Thanks for sharing them.

dave said:

All mine, but some are from quite a while back. Thanks for the kind words, Cole.

Jeff said:

Dave,

These cards are elegant. I always enjoy looking at your work. Sue works with a woman who also makes her own cards. Our first year here we commissioned her to do a Penn State themed Christmas card. Five years later and people still bring them up. Many friends and family continue to display them over the holidays.

Jeff

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