Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Tale of Two Cards

Ever since I stopped living under the same roof as my mother, about a week before my birthday, I receive a card. It’s always this generic, poor quality paper with no particularly meaningful, pre-printed message on it type of card. The cards are generally printed in India or the Middle East. The pictures on them are, for as long as I remember, flowers. To be frank, they are atrocious products.

Whenever I open the envelopes, I can almost imagine the path my mother took to buy, write and send them. I’ve seen those cards being sent to my older siblings. I may even have signed some of them.

She writes iTir minTin yalu 2 or 3 points.

  • Inkuan aderesesh.
  • Wish you all the best in what you wish for thx year.
  • I will be thinking of you and will pray for you.


This has been going on for 16 yrs. The brevity amuses me. My parents are never short of mikir. They've enough for all occasion for their children and hell, for anybody else's children. But never inside birthday cards, which appear to be reserved for my existence and my dreams.

Back in the days my mom used to sign the card for herself, that was during a period I used to live w/ my dad. Then it became for both her and my dad. Nowadays, my dad writes a blurb under hers. The underlying message of both blurbs is identical.

This year, a few weeks before my birthday I got an email from my dad that said, ‘I can’t find the address of your current apartment. We need to send you your birthday card. Please send your address immediately!’ My dad still hasn’t figured out how the search box on gmail works. Oh, yay! My generic card’s coming. I emailed my address back immediately, with a thanks in advance.

Exactly a week before my birthday, I opened my mailbox and there was a pale green, yedekakemech envelope with my mom’s handwriting on it. As if I didn’t know what was in it, I rushed to open it. But when I flipped its back there was a glossy postcard from Toulouse, France, stuck perfectly aligned to the back of my beloved envelope. Ok. That’s bizarre. Nobody I know is in Toulouse. I removed the postcard and unsurprisingly, it’s not addressed to me. In fact, it’s way off -- it was destined for Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Upon further examination I noticed that the quality of the envelope my mom sent was so bad that the envelope’s glue had oozed all over the back and it has accidentally adopted other people’s mail. I must have laughed out loud -- a guy to my right checking his box was giving me a funny look. I gathered the rest of my mail ran off to the safety of my apartment as I investigated this further.

In the elevator I saw the word Ethiopia at the back of the postcard … so, um, I read the whole thing. The writer is travelling around in Europe, enjoying eating and making different kinds of European food, and she says she soon plans to go to Ethiopia to visit some guy. Then it says, “I am sure there will be very strange food there.”

Ha ha ha! Those Ethiopians and their strange food! Of all mail, this card hard to be stuck to mine? Seriously, this has been a great birthday gift, Mom.

Eventually I opened the poor, geen envelope. Its glue had defaced my card a bit. But there were the two familiar handwritings. And the good old familiar messages. I took the card and put it in its rightful place, at the center of the middle shelf. It will hang out there for a few weeks, or months, and one day it will join the others in one of my mess piles. I never throw out these cards.

However old I get, however much I may or may not want to face my birthday, every year these cards make me look forward the next.

So, until 2011 ....

p.s. I dropped off the postcard at the postoffice, on its merry way to NC ... I hope the writer found some good Ethio food ;)

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