Greetings from an old soul
Sending cards may be an outdated practice for some but Enid Parker still thinks it is a lovely gesture
On a recent walkabout in Karama, I happened to pass by Archies Gallery and upon catching a glimpse of the greeting cards, gifts, and pretty wrapping material within, I was overwhelmed by a sense of déjà vu. I could picture myself, decades ago, in shops just like this one, selecting cards to send or give to loved ones for Christmas, birthdays and other special occasions.
Buying a card in those days used to be no small task; it was almost like a mission. Even setting out for the card shop seemed like a big deal, and I would always take a like-minded person along on the trip. My mother had a knack for picking out the best cards and would spend a lot of time browsing. My friends were less serious about the 'mission' and we would goof around in the shop while searching for what we wanted. But there's no doubt that a lot of thought went into purchasing a card for any occasion - be it a birthday, anniversary, or Valentine's Day. Sometimes you spent quite a bit of time in the shop to come to a satisfactory decision. Looking back I count that time as among the simpler pleasures in life. Back then, the prices were good too; something like Dhs10 was deemed a big amount and could buy you what was considered a fancy greeting - these were usually reserved for extra special people like best friends, your favourite family members or crushes you wanted to send something to anonymously (unsurprisingly the anonymous sender was always discovered, thanks to the school grapevine). Fancy means these cards were slightly bigger than the average size, had an extra striking design and engaging messages verging on poetry inside, and could even be musical. I would get a kick out of opening and shutting musical cards till I noticed the raised eyebrows of the salespersons (I could hear them thinking 'are you going to buy that?') and would flash a sweet smile before putting the card carefully back in its place. I'm still not sure if they were charmed, but the eyebrows did go back to normal for sure.
I still remember Hallmark selling Christmas cards in sets (around 30 in a box, themed around everything from smiling snowmen, Christmas trees and Santas to Christmas robins); these would enchant me every time the festive season rolled around; my mother, while herself enchanted was a little more prudent with cash, and politely enquired if I indeed had that many people to give cards to (turns out I did, counting friends and classmates in Dubai and relatives and friends outside the country). Cards featuring the Christmas robin (also known as robin redbreast) remain my favourite type of Christmas greetings.
Today, it's difficult to find variety in greeting cards. The number of shelves stocking cards have reduced, making more space for items like mugs, toys, jigsaw puzzles and gifts. Even simple cards have become expensive and many shops from my childhood are no more. And yet, I yearn for the day when I will receive a card in the post and have made up my mind, after that nostalgic glimpse of Archies Gallery in Karama, to buy a card and send it to someone, something I haven't done for ages.
I know the world has moved on from the traditional greeting card system. But like we revive so many trends from the past, why not this one too? The next time you want to put a smile on someone's face, send them a real greeting card. Maybe they will return the favour.