I love cards. All sorts of cards. Christmas cards, birthday cards, Valentine cards, cards for support, cards for friendship, congrats cards. I love to give cards. I like to send “I miss you” cards, I like to give thank you cards. Those are my favorite. Telling someone how much they mean or meant to you during a certain time in your life, how can you beat that? I like postcards from far-off places. I like postcards from super close places. My mother-in-law used to travel a lot for work, Hawaii, Alaska, Asia. We have post cards from places we have never been. Then there are the cards from places we have been, but were sent to just say hi. New Orleans, Memphis, California. I treasure them all the same. My husband, not much of a card guy, likes for me to give him handmade cards, because, well, “Why would you spend seven dollars, SEVEN DOLLARS, on a card?!” He does have a point. Homemade cards ARE pretty great. But in a pinch, store-bought cards work the same. Because it doesn’t matter so much what the card says, it is what the writer of the card felt, thought, and wrote that matters the most.
My love for cards wasn’t always there. In fact, when I was a kid I remember stripping the money from the card, or disappointingly shaking it to find stickers or stick of gum (who does that to a kid?!) then tossing them aside. My mother, a lover of cards, would say, “Now Missy, you have to read what they wrote.” But I didn’t care. Nowadays, I get so excited when an unexpected card arrives in my mailbox I will wait to open it. I will wait until I have a quiet time, with a quiet spot, so that I can dig into the words on the card. I’m a weirdo, we know this. But words. I like them, ya dig? My mother still sends cards to Jackson once a month. He strips the money out (she always sends him a couple dollars to add to his allowance) then tosses the card. “Read what she wrote,” I say, my mother’s unmistakable voice coming out of my own mouth.
We’re moving next month, and we have been packing. Going through old tubs marked “Memorabilia”. We have found our old high school year books. Our letters, not attached to jackets. Jerimiah’s prom pictures. My old awards (proof that there was once a time I excelled in math), and tubs of Jackson’s art work from Kindergarten through 3rd grade. And we’ve discovered cards. Lots of cards.
It pains me to say, but I’ve started throwing cards away. I have flashes of my son, grown, sitting in my attic going through my things after I’m gone and him finding cards from 1989. Or sugar packets. Or expired cans of tomato soup. (I don’t know, I’ve heard stories.) The point is, I don’t think he will appreciate the things I do, maybe I am wrong, but probably he will flip the card over and say, “Seven dollars for a card! That is ridiculous!”
I’ve found other kinds of cards in our tubs: Baseball cards. I remembered that I was a collector of baseball cards. I loved them. I started playing softball in 3rd grade and I played through high school. I played on co-ed leagues in my 20s. I love softball. Unfortunately, they don’t make softball cards, or didn’t when I was a kid, so I collected baseball cards. (Thought: See if they make softball cards now. How cool for little girls to collect cards of the college girls out there doing it?!)
My baseball card collection eventually went deeper. I started collecting all sorts of cards, the size of baseball cards. Maybe this was a thing when I was a kid. I remember falling out of favor with stickers around this time and picking up the old baseball card habit. My adorable, fuzzy, scented Rainbow Brite stickers, were replaced by the best Derrick Thomas cards, or Scottie Pippin (my heart swooned) or GASP! Casper the Friendly Ghost cards?! I even started collecting cards from popular music groups back in the day. You remember these cards? Super Star Cards they said. I had Paula Abdul and Debbie Gibson. I had Cheap Trick, and one time my sister tried to steal that one. Bitch. The weirdest collection I think I came upon in my tubs were the Desert Storm cards from Kaybee Toy Stores. Whew! Was that a flashback or what?
Of course, it isn’t the actual card that I remember. It is that moment in my life. Or the person who sent it. Or the emotion behind it that surges through me now. I know, for example, that the Desert Storm cards from KayBee came from a very specific KayBee in Lawton, Oklahoma. There wasn’t a KayBee in Leavenworth, but there was one in Lawton, and we went there frequently right around the start of Desert Storm because my sister and her husband were stationed at Ft. Sill. I remember the mall. I remember the store. I remember the feeling of pending war all around us. The stifled, humid summer air. I remember lunch at Taco Tico. And Prairie Dogs. And the swimming pool at their apartment complex. These cards bring up all of that.
Maybe I am not being fair to the cards. Maybe they deserve a spot in my scrapbooks or photo albums. Maybe some silly, little piece of card stock is just as important as a snapshot. But I fear they are only that important to me. My son, sifting through those attic boxes, won’t understand the excitement of unwrapping a Randy Johnson rookie card. He won’t scream with joy from unearthing a Raef LaFrentz Nuggets card. He won’t feel that particular anxiety rise up in his chest when he remembers Desert Storm, the night that Bernie Shaw came on our little colored television and said, “Something is happening outside…Peter Arnett, join me here. Let’s describe to our viewers what we’re seeing…The skies over Baghdad have been illuminated…We’re seeing bright flashes going off all over the sky…”
Because, after all, it isn’t the cards that matter. It’s the memories and they are mine, not his. Not yet.
Maybe I will save the cards after all. Maybe we all should.