Pie and Coffee

I needed a card. No time. No cash. No energy. All I wanted was a “thank you” card and to get home.

Not even the time of day was working for me. It was rush hour on Pacific Highway and I was in the midst of it.

I turned into the lot of the nearest card store and tried to park. Someone, who I am convinced thought they were the only one out and about, was doing some creative car ballet while looking for the best spot to park.

I finally parked forever away, in the far reaches of the lot, and repeated a friend’s quote “Walking is our friend.” As I ran into the store, I was nearly nailed by the ballet driver. Suddenly, “Dodging is our friend” became my new mantra.

Once in the store I tried to find a flowery thank you. None of the cards seemed to be my style. The store was more crowded than usual and every time I went to reach for a card, someone leapt in front of me. So much for a heart-felt selection. In my rush, I grabbed a plain looking, blank card and headed for the checkout.

I was fifth in line. The longer I stood there, the more disenchanted I became with my choice. My mind started to roll. “Maybe I have a card somewhere at home I can use,” “I wonder if I have their e-mail address,” “I could just put the card back and whip off a quick e-mail instead.”

As I stood there, waiting, contemplating my options and wondering just when I would finally get home to fix dinner, a woman got into line behind me. I glanced at her and smiled, remembering her from an aisle a few minutes before.

She was elderly. I think her eyesight was waning. I remembered her picking up cards, holding them up to her nose and squinting to read. I remembered how she left no card un-scrutinized. Her worn and shaking hands held each as if it were a treasure.

In line, she seemed patient as she still studied every detail of her selections. After the line had shortened a bit, she began to dig in her purse. I offered to hold her cards so she could use both hands. Her face lit up, “Oh thank you, dear.” Even her eyes seemed grateful. Her search ended as she pulled out a sheet of stamps.

“I am sending a card to my dear friend in Florida. Do you think that these stamps will look pretty on this envelope?” I assured her that the pink envelope and the flowered stamp would be perfect.

It was almost my turn to pay. Time had suddenly flown by. I imagined her friend. I imagined that maybe her eyesight was poor, too. I knew that the card would be anticipated, that the handwriting on the envelope would be quickly recognized. The cancellation mark, stamp and color of the paper would not be overlooked.

I considered my idea of rushing off an e-mail. Time was still short and I stuck with the card I chose. But, I had determined to write something meaningful inside.

I miss getting envelopes with a familiar script. I miss the joy of tearing open a personal letter. I know that I don’t take the time to write to others and I should. I need to teach my kids the art of real mail. This weekend, we are going to take a family trip to pick out stationery. After all, Valentine’s Day is here!

Kerri Hofmann has lived and worked in Federal Way with her three children since 1997.

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