Many Happy Returns

What do you do with old birthday cards?

My friends and family are very good card-givers. Most of the ones I get are truly funny, with a few purely sweet ones.

I line them up on the mantlepiece for a few weeks and then I forget they’re there and then I recycle them.

I don’t regret my heartlessness even a mere 24 hours later, and yet while in the act of reading the scrawled messages one last time, piling them in a stack, and walking them out to the big green bin, I feel sad and a little guilty.

Not that I think anyone who sends me a greeting card expects it to be pressed forever between the pages of a poetry book. Or saved in a box, like the Hallmark commercial with the mom who saved EVERY SINGLE MOTHER’S DAY CARD her daughter ever gave her. I admit it, that ad choked me up the first time I saw it. And the second time, too.

Usually, I’m unattractively smug about keeping a tight ship. “When in doubt throw it out” is my m.o., which makes mine a mixed marriage.

This year, I got a whole lotta Facebook birthday messages, which was unexpectedly pleasing and without any wistfulness about what to do with them later. Not that I’d trade my little stack of paper for a zillion FB shout-outs.

What do you do with old birthday cards?



  1. I Am Gluten Free on July 13, 2010 at 6:54 am

    I used to follow your lead, though I didn’t know I was doing so:). I would display cards that I’d received, at least for a few weeks. Then, if the original sender hadn’t written anything on the back of the front panel of the card, I would cut the card, leaving only the front panel, and I would “reuse” the card, turning it into a postcard birthday card. I stopped doing that after awhile, and just threw the cards into a “Memory Box”, an idea I got after reading a book (I think by the same title) to my children when they were young. The book was about a young boy who visits his grandmother every Friday for Shabbat. After dinner, she pulls out her “Memory Box” and her grandson pulls out one item, and his grandmother tells him a story about that item. Immediately after reading that book, everyone in my family created their own Memory Box. My Memory Box is chock full of cards from years past. I think I’ll start reusing those cards and make them, once again, into postcard birthday cards. Thanks for the reminder!

Leave a Comment