As I was decluttering our house I came across a box of cards, birthday cards. They were for my birthday, but they had been sent to my mother. At the time I was too young to read them.
There were a lot of them; I didn’t recognize many of the names. Not surprising really – they were from my parents’ friends, cards sent to commemorate my birth. My mother kept them and passed them on to me when she and my father moved to a seniors’ residence.
There wasn’t much variety in the comments, which really shouldn’t be that surprising. After all, what can you say about the birth of a baby? “Hope you get some sleep?” “You’ll feel better in 18 years?” How about “Now the grey hairs start.” (For the record, none of the comments were like that.)
The 1950s were a more formal time. That may be why people didn’t sign their full names to the cards. Or maybe “Mr. Smith” was running from the law. That sure sounds like an alias to me. But who were “Mr. Blair and Mary”? I don’t recall any Blairs in my childhood. Nor do I know who “The Hendersons” were. The same for “The Bell Boys.” Strangely enough, I do know who “Frizzie” was, at least I remember meeting her once. She lived with my paternal grandmother – and I never could figure out if she was friend or relative. I suppose I could ask, but she has been gone more than 50 years, so it would be a moot point.
First names without last ones don’t help me either, for the most part. Who were “Eb, Lil, Kenny, Garry & David?” I’d think “Aunt Lisa and Uncle Jim” were relatives I’ve never heard of, but back in the ‘50s the honorific “Aunt” or “Uncle” was freely bestowed on family friends. My father had an uncle Jim, but I don’t recall any mention of a wife, Lisa or otherwise.
There were a lot of cards, a lot of well-wishing. Some I am sure came from members of the same church, or maybe work acquaintances. To me they underscored the transitory nature of relationships in our society.
I didn’t recognize the names, but these people were close enough to my parents to send a card (and many sent a gift also) to celebrate my birth. Yet by the time I was old enough to know who my parents’ friends were, they were not present.
That got me thinking of my friendships. I have some long-standing friends, people I have known and been close to for decades. Others have drifted in and out, there for a season, then gone with the next one. No real reason why. Life happens.
Reading these cards has underscored the importance of friendship for me. I need to have fewer people drifting away. We all do.