My great aunt passed away last month. I hadn’t seen her in years, but we remained connected through the mail. Yes, actual pen to paper cards and notes sent via the United States Postal Service. In a world where texts, tweets, and Facebook updates are more of the norm, I treasured the moments I opened the mailbox to find a brightly colored envelope addressed to me.
For years, without fail, my great aunt sent me cards for the holidays – Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Halloween. The cards followed me to college, several different apartments, and finally the home I live in now. They were always signed: Love, Mary Jane.
On Christmas, her cards were always carefully selected – not just the same ones my brother and sisters received. Although, all of our cards ended the same: Love, Mary Jane.
There were years I did not have a valentine, but at least there was always a card containing her precise signature: Love, Mary Jane.
After I delivered my babies, she sent congratulatory cards. With only a few hours of sleep and a crying baby on my shoulder, I smiled as I read the bottom of the card: Love, Mary Jane.
Then she started sending cards to my son and daughter on the holidays. My kids love to receive mail but seldom do, so this meant more to them than she probably ever knew. They would tear open envelopes, admire the pictures, and then hand the cards to me to read. Of course, these also were signed: Love, Mary Jane.
I sent cards to her, as well, including little notes about how I was doing over the years: I’m an English teacher now! I got engaged! We bought a house! I’m pregnant! We went to Disney this year!
These cards followed her to her own house, a retirement community, and finally a nursing home.
Although, I used to see her twice a year at family gatherings, sadly, I can’t remember the last time I saw my great aunt. Traditions changed. Time moved on. Eventually, our relationship dwelled only within those colorful envelopes.
Now, I will miss those small gestures that simply brought a smile to my face. Unearthing a card amidst junk mail and bills is always a pleasant surprise. This tangible greeting feels so much more thoughtful and real than a “Hello!” or “Miss You!” received in my inbox or on social media.
So, with pen and paper, I will remember my Aunt Mary Jane by continuing her tradition of sending cards and encouraging my own children to do so, as well. They already love to sit down with markers, stickers, and some blank cards to wish their cousins and grandparents happiness on special occasions.
Perhaps, we will add a few more names to their list of recipients – a few more who might enjoy finding a card buried beneath junk mail. Because, although their cards are a bit messy, their message is clear: I love you and I am thinking of you.
And, isn’t that a message we all would love to receive?
TIPS TO GET YOUR YOUNG CHILDREN INTERESTED IN SENDING CARDS
- Let them select the cards at the store. (Even if they are the ugliest, tackiest ones! And, inevitably, they will be!)
- Gather the right supplies. Stickers, stickers and more stickers! Use colored pencils and markers.
- Let them draw pictures instead of writing messages if they are young.
- Allow them to put on the stamp and take it to the mailbox with you.
- Pay attention to them. This can be a time they don’t have to compete with your phone, work, or chores.
TIPS TO HELP YOU GET MOTIVATED TO HELP YOUR KIDS SEND CARDS
- It is educational. Use the time to teach about mail, the Post Office, and addresses. (TIP: instead of using your return address labels, let older kids practice their address by writing it out.)
- It is a great opportunity for handwriting practice. (TIP: For younger kids, write the name of the recipient and your child’s name in large printed letters. Let them trace the letters.)
- It is a way to teach your kids about adding details to writing. Instead of just writing “Thank You!” encourage your children to add details about why they liked the toy they received or what about it made it so special.
- It is an activity that allows kids to be creative. (TIP: When your son wants to do every letter in a different color. Let him! It may take forever, but he is not busy filling up buckets of water for his toy aquatic dinosaurs and spilling them all over the floor!)
- While they are working on their cards, you can use the time to write out your own cards, as well. (TIP: Go ahead and use the markers and stickers. It is definitely more fun that way!)
- It teaches manners. It is never bad manners to send a card.