Greeting Cards



Greeting Cards


Jacob Schlitt


"I am sitting at my desk and looking at my display of greeting cards." (Later, revised draft of "Greeting Cards" [2011/2012])













I am sitting at my desk and looking at my display of greeting cards. (Thank you kids, and for the hand made cards by grandkids.) But the number of cards received this year is ridiculously small. When I worked in a stationery store while going to college, we sold a greeting card for anywhere from a nickel for a little card, to a dollar for a giant card. And you could mail it with a three cent stamp. Today the average price is $2.99, and the price of a stamp is 46 cents.

But that is not why I receive so few greeting cards at a time when I used to be inundated, since December celebrates both my birthday and some other fellow’s. People are resorting to e-mailing greetings. (I am even getting e-mail birthday greetings from AARP and my alumni association.) Some folks simply send you an e-mail saying Happy Birthday, or whatever; others have picked up on a clever innovation of e-cards that are animated and play music, while extending greetings for everything under the sun. It even allows you to send back an e-thank you. I noticed that one of the last greeting card manufacturers competing with Hallmark, American Greetings, must have decided that if you can’t beat them, join them, and are peddling e-cards as well. And some people call, which is sweet and thoughtful, but you can’t hold it in your hand and display it.

The truth is, I miss going to the mail box in December and taking out armfuls of greeting cards. My Jewish friends and relatives used to send me birthday cards. My non-Jewish friends and a few relatives also sent me birthday and season’s greeting cards, usually making sure that it did not say “Merry Christmas.” Almost every surface in my house was covered with greeting cards.

My cousin Ruth Goldstein Kestenbaum, whom I loved dearly, sent me a birthday card every year from the time I was born, until she was no longer able to send cards. I used to joke that I definitely knew it was my birthday when I received a card from Ruth. Amazingly, her husband Arthur took over the card sending responsibility for several years, until he was no longer able. I am sure she had a list with birthday dates for friends and relatives. No doubt it included anniversaries as well.

Coincidentally, my friend Ruth Schulman has the responsibility for our group, Reading Out Loud, to maintain the list of Significant Dates for the seven families, and it has grown significantly. It started with our birthdays (14 people) and weddings (7 couples). Then the birthdays of spouses, the birthdays of children, the weddings of children, the weddings of those of us who remarried, the birthdays of grandchildren, and sadly, deaths. Many of us refer regularly to this list, and we may or may not send cards, but we usually call, or e-mail. For some years, I would exchange birthday cards with my friend Sol. We would sign our names in pencil, so the other could erase it and send it on to someone else. Isn’t it the thought that counts?

Getting back to greeting cards: I used to spend hours looking for the most appropriate greeting card in the card store or drug store: The one that expressed my wish exactly, for the birthday, marriage, anniversary, graduation, Bar or Bat Mitzvah, or for Rosh Hashanah, Passover, Chanukah, Valentine’s Day, Christmas etc. These days, I simply go to my closet, where I have squirreled away hundreds of cards, and pick the one I think is most appropriate from among my collection, which includes boxes of art cards bought at museums. Those are really classy. Even if I live to 120, I will never be able to give away all the cards I have. It means I have to write in the blank space—to substitute my words for those of the card manufacturer—but that is a small price to pay, and it makes it more personal.

Still another reason that there are fewer store-bought cards: people are making them themselves from digital photographs that they have taken. Instead of inserting a picture in the card, the picture IS the card, or vice versa. Picture-cards can now be had at almost any drug store. One problem I have with these cards is that it is much harder to throw out. Do you keep the whole card, or do you cut out the picture? I used to keep all the cards that my kids sent me, until it got to be too much. Another problem I struggled with is how long do I keep the cards on display—a week, a month? Should I take a digital photo of the display, before discarding them?

To friends and family, I say keep those cards and letters coming, and I will display them from the time of my birthday (and the other guy’s) until the next time I get a bunch of cards.


Original Format



Jacob Schlitt, “Greeting Cards,” Autobiographical stories & other writing by Jacob Schlitt, accessed July 14, 2024,