A birthday card that champions our lives

“By sending this card which is printed on 100% ozone friendly paper, I am not only showing an interest in your Birthday, but in topical environmental issues as well!

…So send it back when you get the chance and I’ll send it to you again next year!!”

That was the message 20 years ago when my baby sister (18 years my junior) sent me this birthday card as I turned 44. She bought it in Dublin where she was living at the time. Cost 40p. My birthday is in May; hers in November. And so, a few months later I sent the card back to her, just signed, Happy Birthday, Pam. Love Donna.  That was 1992.  And so it went for three years, Happy Birthday Donna, Love Pam (1996)  Happy Birthday Pam, Love Donna (1996).

And then around 1999 we started to add messages … “Happiness is sometimes having the bathroom to yourself”

This card has survived the births of her two sons, a divorce, a dozen moves until she settled back in our home town. It’s survived her buying a business and taking our mom into her home as Alzheimers made it difficult for her to be alone. It’s celebrated a new marriage and the blending of two families. It’s survived the leaving of home of my kids, at least three moves, the deaths of several friends, and growing older.

It’s a microcosm of our lives, a melting pot of reality.

I just opened this card from her for 2012. And here’s her message to me. “You and I have spent the past year being mom’s ‘bookends’ (the first and last born–we have two siblings in between), getting her settled into longterm care, and I think we’ve done a fine job. Now, we can team up to plan her 90th birthday.”

She goes on to applaud my ability to plan ahead (a character trait inherited from our father) and her ability to fly by the seat of her pants (mom’s true strength).

And in between… a few messages of significance…

“I’m now the age dad was when we began this card!”

“Let me point out what a miracle it is that I tucked this card away to send back to you, remembered where I tucked it & remembered to find it in time for your birthday!” ’94

“I’m happy you’re coming to help us move. It’s 100 F outside and freezing in the stores so pack well.” ’95

“You’ve entered that wonderful world of self-denying, life-consuming activity called parenthood… the birth of a new attitude and while it lasts a lifetime, the tough bits end.”  ’96

“The advantages and disadvantages of being the tail-ender? For you and I, the last and the first, a generation apart, really, I feel a bond that is strong and good and eternal. I wish for you happiness, deep wells and high mountains.” ’98

“We’re sitting this year in a different restaurant in a different country and we’re changed women for our lives experiences this past year.” ’99

“Now you’re 35! Wonder if we’ll ever let you be an adult. Imagine yourself as a 70 year old baby surrounded by your 88, 84, and 82 year old siblings!” 2000

“Surprise! 20 moves later and I still know where to find this card” ’04

“Next year will mark the start of a new decade; congratulations on how well you’re ending this one” ’04

“I’m going to be thinking about the night you were born!” ’08

“What a year for you!  Becoming a grandma.  You are going to be a fantastic grandmother.” ’09

“You’re a wonderful mother and an unbelievable daughter!  And a treasured sister!” ’09

“Don’t you find you feel comfortable with yourself and who you are?” 2010

“I’m having dinner tonight with your wonderful daughter who I love so much and am lucky enough to call my niece.” 2011

“Happy 46! At age 4 you’d have been happy with a new pair of sparkling shoes. And you would today, too!” 2011

And here we are, 20 years with our eco card, crammed with sticky notes, good stationery, with scribble and text, capturing our lives and our love. When kids are born a generation apart (same parents!) there’s so much they don’t share. But being book-ends is a great place to be. And being my baby sister’s oldest sister is equally great!

I’ll just tuck this card in its normal waiting spot until November when the wee girl who loved sparkly shoes will turn 47!

Thanks, Pam!