It’s all in the cards

Melissa Stagnaro

Need a greeting card for a particular occasion? Chances are, I’ve got one – or several – which will fit the bill. Why? Because I’m addicted to them. I’m always on the hunt for the perfect card for someone. And as I comb through the selection available at any purveyor of such things, I’m more likely than not to grab a few extra while I’m at it.

I simply can’t help myself.

There is something about them that just draws me in. Maybe its a brilliant photo of some idyllic scene, or an intricate, insightful illustration. And every once in awhile you stumble across one where the pithy little sayings inside, just strikes the perfect chord with your emotions.

That’s how I pick the perfect card for those closest to me. I read it and wait for a wave of emotion to strike. I know I’ve found “the one,” when I’m weeping openly in the card aisle. Or laughing out loud, depending on the occasion. (I’ve noticed that either reactions can cause a certain amount of consternation for my fellow shoppers, but I’m not bothered. Obviously they need to be more in touch with their feelings.)

Since basically any supermarket or pharmacy worth its salt carries greeting cards, I can feed my card habit almost anywhere. But some places cater more to my tastes than others. The holy Mecca for card connoisseurs has to be Papyrus. I spent an hour in their San Francisco store once, during a brief stay in that amazing city. It was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the trip. (High praise, since I love, love, loved San Fran.)

The next best thing to a specialty stationary store, which are admittedly hard to come by in this day and age, are the offerings at any Borders, Barnes & Noble or even Target. None are in close enough range to fulfill my needs on a regular basis, however. So I’ve been scouting out card purveyors in closer proximity to my Chenango County home.

Without a doubt, my favorite are the Graphique de France cards available at The Goody Bag in Greene. This little shop, which specializes in gourmet items, also has fabulous coffee and chocolate truffles to die for. I stock up on the first two, and try hard to resist the third, whenever I can fit a trip to downtown Greene into my schedule. Beth, the lovely owner, is happy to feed my addiction(s).

If I need to grab a last minute card on my way to work, I stop at Blue Ox in Oxford. I know that may sound strange, stopping at a convenience store for such a thing. Sure their selection is small, but their cards, all from Tree-Free Greetings, are top notch. They’re even “earth friendly.” Which is good to know, for you crunchy-granola types out there.

Sometimes you need a card for an obscure occasion. A case is point was my aunt’s golden jubilee a few years ago. (For those of you who don’t have a nun in the family or aren’t Catholic, the event marked her 50th year in the convent.) I had no idea where to go for a card to mark the occasion, but my mother did: Service Pharmacy in Norwich.

For the full depth and breadth of their selection, the South Broad street establishment rounds out my top three. They carry what seems to be a thousand different lines of Hallmark cards, including those Marjolein Bastin Nature’s Sketchbook cards which I love and the (Product) Red cards, a percentage of sales of which go to help fight the spread of AIDS in Africa.

They also have bloopers cards, created from submissions so bad that instead of rejecting them they figured they’d market them to sick individuals – like me – who find that kind of stuff absurdly funny. My fav has a picture of this little kid on the front, draped in a whole bunch of dirty old bras. Inside it says, “thank you for your support.”

Just thinking about it brings me to happy tears.

Of course, not every card is perfect. Some are down right horrible. For every perfect gem, there are probably a hundred which miss the mark. That’s why my card shopping excursions are often somewhat protracted affairs.

I know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong. This has nothing to do with my indecisiveness. It just takes time to separate the wheat from the chaff. Finding that one gem, the needle in the haystack, makes all the time and effort invested worthwhile.

And when you find those stand outs, you have to buy them. Right then and there. Because you know you’ll never be able to find them again.

Which is why I end up leaving with 5 cards for every one I intended to buy.

It wouldn’t be a problem if five months later, when the birthday of the friend for whom I purchased the aforementioned perfect card finally rolls around, I remembered I’d already bought them card. Too often, I’ve forgotten long before then.

So I buy a new one. And that perfect card gets relegated to my collection, with the promise that I’ll remember it next year. Although, let’s face it, the chance of that actually happening are slim to none.

I also have habit of buying cards which I love, but have no intended recipient. I’m always optimistic that just such an occasion will arise when precisely that card, and only that card will fit the bill.

Which, once in a blue moon, actually does happen. But more often than not, all those treasured cards simply get added to my growing card collection. (We won’t discuss my ever-increasing storage requirements.)

A lucky few are selected for display in my cubicle. Right now, four have been deemed worthy of this honor.

One bears a simple photograph of snow drifts in an aspen grove, the trees with their paper white bark, casting long-blue shadows which contrast against the sparkling white of the snow. The image is calming and restful to me, and reminds me of the years I spent in Colorado.

Another, sports a trio of can-can girls whose legs are mounted on a spring. A bit of a flick sends them into a frenzied dance which makes me laugh even on the worst of days.

Stark white frames a Technicolor image of the Capitol building against a stormy blue sky, brilliant red tulips in the foreground, reminds me of the recent trip I took with my mom to DC.

A dreamy, pseudo-psychadelic watercolor wash of trees, butterflies, songbirds and flowers bursting forth in swirls from a pair of childlike hands reminds me to, “Believe in a thousand impossible things you’ve never believed before.”

And when I look at it, I do.

Like magic, it’s all in the cards.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.