I have kept all the cards I have ever received. Birthday cards, congratulatory cards, even the dentist’s reminders to come to my next appointment. I have play bills, ticket stubs, eulogies from other people’s funerals that I found during the viewing of a great uncle I didn’t even know. I have post-its from a job I quit months ago, reminding me to slice an extra twenty tomatoes. All these, stuffed into a black cardboard box with a metal tab on the front, declaring it: “fond memories,” written in my most fancy cursive.
Now the box is completely full, spilling over onto the shelf beside it. I went to The Drowsy Chaperone a few months ago, and marched downstairs to put the program in my letter box. Imagine my dismay when I found that not only was there no room for it, but really there wasn’t any room for anything.
So I started rooting through my letter box.
I found a lot of receipts. Like, a lot. As in, more than any person has a right to hoard. I have no idea why a greasy Arby’s receipt made it into my ‘fond memories’ box, but since it’s there already I carefully fold it and place it back in the box. A few others come to the top, one that spelled my friend Felicia’s name “FALISHA”, and another from Mc Donalds that I got after a hockey game with my friends. It is nearly transparent with grease and still smells faintly of salt.
I have a million letters from my mom, some that she sent me when I was at my first overnight camp, and others that she sent when I was staying at my grandmothers. My favorite is one where she gave me a box of jellybeans along with the card. The candy has long since been eaten, but I saved the paper guide on what flavor was what.
I have many well-wishes from teachers, all written in correct grammar and easy-to-read print. One from my favorite sixth grade teacher reads: “Good job. I look forward to seeing you progress through school. Please keep in touch.” Next to it is a card I received just a few weeks ago, from her as well. It reads: “Congrats on graduation!” She gave me a beautiful silver necklace in a mesh bag with lavender embroidered it. It was tucked in the envelope alongside the kind words.
There is a card with the A&W logo boldly proclaiming: FREE cake for your BIRTHDAY!! And under that a teeny tiny date and a warning that after that date the offer is void. It expired in 2013. I flip it over, and there is a note from my dentist. “Don’t forget to brush afterwards!” He signed it with a loopy scribble that looks nothing like his name.
One of my friends always gives me the most fabulous birthday cards. One in particular has little cupcakes on the front, with pink paper folded to look like cupcake liners. Inside, she drew her cat with instructions: “Pet it! It’s fluffy!” When you run your hands over the ink, it is indeed fluffy.
At the bottom of the box, in a place of honor, is the first card I ever received. I have kept it through two moves, two states, and years of cleaning and purging the junk in my room. It is important.
On the front is a yellow dog laying in sunny grass. It has a red bandana around it’s neck, and his tongue is lolling out a little bit.
It is from Amanda, my first friend. My best friend. My first best friend. After all this time, I don’t remember much about her. Only that she had blond hair, and a nice smile. I couldn’t tell you what her face looked like, her height, or even what she sounded like. I have a vague impression of quietness, a sort of serene silence. I also remember the texture of dusty gravel, and the shadow of a metal jungle gym. That was where we always used to play. She had moved away after first grade, and I had been devastated. I remember crying myself to sleep the first few nights of second grade when I realized she wouldn’t be there to help slow down the frantic pace of school, wouldn’t be waiting for me under the jungle gym, wouldn’t save a swing for me during recess.
Here is what it says:
“thank you for being my friend, thank you for being nice, thank you for leting me come over to your house.
“thank you for being my _______ friend
“thank you for being so nice—ce— thank you for being my friend!
I have no explanation for the odd way she wrote the card. When I read it in my head it sounds somewhat like a song, and I’d like to think that years back, as she was writing me this card, she hummed a little tune to herself as she scribbled in large letters.
Now I have two boxes, both full of cards. I had intended to throw some things away, to make room in the first box. But I realized that all of them were important. Both those boxes sit on my shelf, collecting dust, but inside those boxes lay some of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.