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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Monday, May 8, 2023
9:01 pm

Next to my glass fetish, I have a paper fetish. I love notebooks and journals. I have a stack of construction paper just because. I particularly like notecards.

I also have a habit of not using any of it. It’s just too pretty, so I buy paper and notecards then admire them and imagine writing words on them or drawing pictures on them or cutting them into snowflakes and little hearts.

When we were living in Brigantine I spent days one Christmas season cutting paper into strips and drawing Christmasy things on them like candles and candy canes and presents and trees, and turning the strips into loops on a chain. The chain hung all over the kitchen that year,

I think my parents inherited it and brought it home to Mahopac. I suspect it still exists, somewhere.

I love paper because paper is possibility. So many stories to be written and pictures to be drawn. So much to unfold. The imagining of it is often just as much fun as the doing of it.

But sometimes I do like to use the paper for its intended purpose, like making lists or sending birthday cards.

I’m absolutely terrible at sending birthday cards. For one thing, they are not usually that interesting and for another you can pay upwards of five or six bucks to say something not that interesting.

I prefer to create and write my own cards.

As a kid I made every birthday card into an art project. They had to be hand drawn to perfection. They had to say something meaningful and worthy of the paper they were written on. “Happy Birthday” was clearly insufficient.

Do you know what I had for dinner tonight?

Me either.

But I remember one year when I was maybe 8 or 9 and I drew a Thanksgiving card for my aunt and uncle. It had Pilgrims and Indians and a big, colorful turkey, not for eating but for admiring. And somehow I smudged the hand of one of the Pilgrims. No amount of erasing or patching or redrawing could fix that hand.

I was absolutely beside myself with misery. So I got another piece of paper, colored it hand-colored, and painstakingly cut out tiny fingers to glue over the smudged part.

Such is the manifestation of odd obsessions.

But I digress. I love paper.

I also love writing. And those two things marry so well together.

I also love writing things to people on paper. Email is nice for instant gratification, but it is not even close in effect to receiving a letter in the mail.

I grew up on pen pals and letter exchanges, when long distance phone calls were charged by the minute but a stamp was just a few cents. I have an entire box of letters my mother wrote me in college, in between collect-calling from a payphone.

I have birthday cards and Christmas cards sent to me by every relative ever, Valentine cards signed Love, Dad, giant cards given by Ralph, tiny notes tacked onto the outside of packages that say little more than “Love, mom and dad.”

Apparently I’m not the only one who keeps these things. The other day my cousin texted me a photo of a letter I wrote to my Aunt Sally and Uncle Louie – her grandparents – thanking them for their engagement gift. That was nearly 30 years ago.

Something about the words on paper immortalizes them. It’s like you can be in a different place and time for the brief moment it takes to read them. Like the person who wrote them still exists, is right there, is actually speaking to you in their own hand.

You don’t get that from words on email.

Aunt Sally was a big emailer. She sent jokes and news, recipes and memes before anyone even knew what a meme was. At my request, she once sent me her recipe for stuffed peppers. It was about a thousand words long. Single spaced. One paragraph.

I kept the email but more importantly I printed her words on paper. It wasn’t hand written but it was beautiful anyway. I kept it tucked into my recipe folder, when I had things like a recipe folder, and then the moths ate it and now I can’t find the email and it makes me very, very mad. Maybe it will show up one day. If not, I still have the birthday cards she sent.

My love affair with paper often involves the purchase of it, usually in the form of notebooks and journals, and most recently, notecards.

I had a notecard buying spree a few months ago, when I decided that I missed sending notes to people. And I think, even if they don’t know it, people miss getting notes.

I bought boxes of cards, sparkly ones and animal ones and flowery ones, all with the intent of sending them to people so they could also appreciate paper with words on it.

I have used exactly one. And that was to send my nephew a birthday card because the regular birthday cards are still uninteresting.

Today I used a second, mostly as a delivery mechanism to gracefully mail a check. Yes, checks still exist, too.

But as I took the card out of a very tall pile, a card with a smiling blue llama on the front, I was reminded of why I bought these notecards in the first place. Not just to admire them, but to share them with other people so they can admire them. And maybe even enjoy the words written on them.

So I’m undertaking a side project now to use my notecards. Maybe one day 30 years from now, someone will find a dusty but still smiling llama in a drawer and get that little thrill of happy and sad and nostalgia and delight that I did when my cousin sent me the note to Aunt Sally.

Photo: my current notecard collection, soon to dwindle. And a snippet of the note to Aunt Sally and Uncle Louie, passed through two generations of drawers.