Personal Birthday Cards Kept as Treasures in Grandma’s Scrapbooks

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My vivacious grandmother, who would have celebrated her 100th birthday last November, kept a busy social calendar. In the Roaring Twenties-era storage trunks that she secured with worn brown leather belts – buckle and all – I recently came across a set of her beloved scrapbooks, which she had begun in high school and continued to fill throughout her life. What struck me was that in each book, amid the newspaper clippings, letters, and photographs that meant so much to her, she had dedicated several pages to personal birthday cards that had been given to her and that she especially treasured.

As attractive as these assorted birthday cards were, I knew this wasn’t why she had held onto the greeting cards. She was touched by how the birthday cards were personalized. All of the birthday cards were inscribed with a loving, handwritten message from one of her friends or family members. “A friend no finer could I find; while I’m no poet, I hope you love me enough not to mind…” reads one in flowing script. Another, from her father, expresses how proud he is of the “strong and resolute young lady” she has become. I found a few poignant business birthday cards from coworkers, one of whom wished her “a birthday as gorgeous and inspiring as you are,” this in the midst of Grandma Tjo’s grueling cancer treatments.

For most of these greeting cards, it likely took the senders only a minute or two to write good wishes to my grandmother. I wish they all knew what that meant to her.

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