I like looking at all the cards. I stand there, looking at the Happy Birthdays, The Good Lucks, The Happy Anniversaries. Smiles and bright colours, a rainbow of laughs and songs. Happy times.
I see a card with a pint of beer and a pair of slippers. I’d give that one to Jack. I chuckle at a card with a cat in a funny pose. Jean would like that one.
I wander on, Son, Father, Brother. My heart feels heavy.
Daughter, Sister, Mother. I have been them all.
I see others dash in and out, lunchtime rush, to grab a card for someone they love. The rain outside is pouring down, and the blue carpet of the shop is awash with wet footprints. The echos of lives living in the present.
Some take a long time to decide. Stand there, paused in time, reading words and interpreting meanings. Others greedily grab the first thing they see. Others scour the prices to find the smallest, cheapest card.
I was always one to read the cards, to choose a card because it meant something to me. The words leaping out of the page, calling to me, reminding me of the person whose card I was choosing. Making sure it was a good size, not too small, not too large. Making sure the picture on the front related to the individual. The card vulnerable against my hands, bending at the edges.
They would open the card, maybe not even glimpse at the verse inside. Lazily stand it on the mantlepiece with the other cards. Usually a card would wobble and collapse into a heap on the floor, abandoned until it is found again, some months later, behind the sofa. But I would know. I would know what it meant, and maybe one day they would read that card again, discover it hidden like a time capsule amongst the dust and then they would know it too.
I wander along the aisle, and head towards the baby cards. My heart pangs as I read ‘Congratulations!’ and ‘It’s a girl!’ Pinks and blues and girls and boys and soft cotton booties.
I remember pink fingers wrapped around a thumb. A gentle cry, the empty silence.
My fingers fall across cards. Get Well Soon. I remember the wall of cards in the hospital. A wall protective and pleading. Get Well Soon. I tut, maybe too loud. Did anyone hear? Get. Well. Soon. Well that was an ironic thing to send. Some people don’t get well, ever again. Would they make a card saying that?
I let my eyes hover on the Sympathy Cards. The purples and blacks, the dark colours defining death. The smell of lilies tingles my nose. Who wants to buy a card like this? Who wants to receive one? It hurts just to see the saccharine words and gentle themes. I have seen too many sympathy cards.
And then I have come full circle, back to the front of the shop, the queues, the sparkly banners, balloons and noisy plastic tat across the till. I walk through the wet footprints and out into the street. Into the rain, the cold air in my face. A breath of fresh air for these old lungs.
I like looking at the cards. I have no one to buy them for now.