Greeting Card Tactics

Daily life is filled with irritations. So many irritations, in fact, that many are easily overlooked... until someone points them out.

As soon as I grew old enough to buy my own cards, I realized just how right my mother was, and the following years have only confirmed this reality. Take, for instance, the sympathy card I needed to buy last fall. I knew the recipient in a professional setting, not a personal one, which made most of the options inappropriate.

Others were downright creepy.

Some card manufacturers have realized how awkward cards can be and have decided that a bit of humor will solve this difficulty. Unfortunately, very few of their attempts are actually worthwhile. No matter the occasion (birthday, anniversary, Pancake Awareness Day...), the majority of the allegedly funny cards break down into three categories.

Group One: Dumb Joke

Group Two: Inappropriate But Still Allowed on the Grocery Store Shelves

Group Three: Egocentric Sender

My family has developed a number of coping mechanisms for dealing with poor greeting card options. My mother always tries to get cards with Snoopy on them.

Now after every birthday I return the card so my parents can give it back to me the next year.

My younger brother deals with birthdays by refusing to conform to societal expectations.

In retaliation I gave him this card. He used it for my birthday the following spring, and we’ve been trading it back and forth ever since.

My usual tactic, however, is to find a card with one of those delicate paper-y inserts. I then proceed to rip out the insert and write whatever I want in its place.

Then there was the best card I ever gave my mother.

My dad’s solution is to let my mom buy the cards. All he has to do is sign his name.

Overall, however, I think my older brother has the best tactic.

Sheer brilliance.

Bunny the Blue

It all started with a seemingly innocuous package.

This was my senior year of college, when I shared a campus house with nine other girls, and getting a package from home was a big deal. We all gathered excitedly to watch the opening process.

I’m sure that there was any amount of Easter-y goodness in that cardboard box, but only one item from it is forever emblazoned in my memory.

Little did we know the psychological trauma about to be wreaked by the outwardly adorable beast. The creature was a palm-sized mixture of fluff and fuzz, and to perpetuate the myth of its cuteness it was dyed blue to boot. Then there was its special feature.

Yes, the blue bunny was musical -- in the most irritating fashion possible. It sounded like a demented ice cream truck, and its song lasted about twenty seconds longer than my patience.

Unfortunately for my mental state, some of the others were highly amused by the wretched bunny. As I went about my end-of-the-semester tasks, I felt my sanity steadily slipping.

To make matters worse, the bunny’s pitch was ever-so-slightly off key – just enough to turn anyone with musical training into a basket case.

What really unhinged me, however, resulted from Bunny Blue disappearing into the moral abyss of our next-door neighbors. To this day I don’t know what exactly the Brown House boys did to that creature, but when it came back it had taken atonality to new levels.

Something had to be done. Someone had to contain the beast.

There was no question who that someone would be.

When the Æsir moved to contain the monstrous wolf Fenrir, they bound him by means of a magic fetter.

I used a freezer instead.

Like Monty Python plague victims, the blue bunny wasn’t quite dead. As the semester ended and we packed up to head our various ways, the creature was foisted on housemate upon unsuspecting housemate. The roulette only ended when everyone had dispersed for good.

Once again I found myself in control of the beast, and this time I was taking no chances.

Thanks to my merciless surgery, Bunny Blue was at last fit for human company, and he’s spent the past five years in seclusion with one housemate or another. Right now he’s sitting on my desk, staring at me with unreadable eyes, and preparing himself for tomorrow’s Long House reunion.

He’s either speechless with delight or silently plotting my death.

Aunt Mary

I’ve met a number of tough people over the years – ones who carry weapons, fight wars, or stare down thugs merely with the baleful expression of their eyes. But for sheer tenacity, none of these characters holds a candle to my Great Aunt Mary.

Aunt Mary grew up during the Depression, and during this time she developed the frugality that has characterized her life. She stocks up on sale foods and keeps them in her deep freeze for what seems like years.

When she was young, Aunt Mary moved with her parents and two brothers from Perry, Oklahoma, to Chanute Kansas. She has lived in her parents’ house ever since, and this has made her de facto keeper of questionable family heirlooms.

Cows are big, scary creatures. When I was a child and my family visited Kansas, we would sometimes be roped into helping move the lumbering beasts to a different pasture.

Unlike the soft suburbanite family of her nephew, Aunt Mary is more than capable of corralling a bunch of blundering bovines. She kept a herd until well into her eighties, and when she finally sold them off she kept her favorite troublemaker around.

That’s another habit of hers – naming animals after politicians.

Aunt Mary’s thoughts on politics and other current events come from television and radio programs. Although she’s very sharp in other ways, she does make a credulous audience.

Aunt Mary is also hospitable to a fault, always eager to invite the relatives to her house and to share her cooking, even if her concoctions defy the culinary logic.

Never marrying, she has lived alone on the farm for as long as I can remember, and there’s no sign of a retirement home in her future. Aunt Mary knows that she can take care of herself.

And she's right.

Today my Great Aunt Mary turns ninety. She has survived a depression, several recessions, a world war, and the passing of many friends and family members. She has witnessed changes in technology, from progress in phones (she was the last in her neighborhood on a party line) to the development of satellite navigation systems (on which her long driveway typically appears). She is an avid genealogist, a loyal contributor to charities, and a devout Catholic. She constantly thinks of others, clipping news articles she thinks will be of interest and writing lengthy letters full of local news.

Here’s to my Great Aunt Mary, the toughest human being I’ve ever met.