My mom turned 90 last week, adding celebrating a landmark birthday during a pandemic to an already lengthy list of life experiences.
She’s been in lockdown at her nursing home since March, and back in May, we realized making her day special would require an extra dose of creativity.
Darling Daughter mentioned she’d read about getting people to send postcards for a special occasion and the “Postcard Project” was born.
Here’s what we did:
- Listed everyone in Mom’s past and present who we might be able to enlist in sending her a postcard for her birthday.
- Reached out to friends and cousins to help locate even more people who would want to participate.
- Sent postcards, address labels, stamps, and a note (see copy at bottom of this post) explaining what we were doing. In several cases, I sent multiples of all of the above, asking them to share with anyone they thought might like to join the fun.
- Mom’s address labels have my address on them because I act as her Power-of-Attorney, so all the cards came to me. Initially, we considered delivering them as they came, but in the end, we chose to be more dramatic, presenting them all on her birthday in a keepsake box my brother bought.
- So far, Mom received over 75 cards and postcards, and stragglers are still being delivered. Some people sent birthday cards instead, and others sent both.
- Several took the time to share memories of times they’d spent with her, while many simply wished her a happy 90th birthday.
- Some were a mystery (at least to me), either because they were unsigned, or because I didn’t recognize the names.
- She received cards from nieces, nephews, her daughter-in-law, her one remaining sibling, my in-laws in England, her grandchildren and the grandchildren of a nurse at her facility who visited often in the past and now can’t. There were cards from our next-door neighbors when we were growing up, and members of the church we attended then, as well as my brother’s church, which she has occasionally attended.
Conclusion and advice:
This project was a success. Mom was clearly touched both by our efforts and the fact that so many people responded. She also likes having the box in which to keep the cards, and we expect she will read them from time to time in the future.
One of the reasons I’m sharing this experience is because you may have relatives or friends with similar events approaching, and postcards proved to be a good way to include others when physically getting together is unwise.
If you decide on a similar project, I’d advise an early start. We began in July for an end of August birthday.
I’m embarassed to admit I already had all the postcards we needed in my card drawer, many of them in themed books of cards. If you need to purchase cards, you should probably start even earlier.
It’s likely many people responded because we made it easy. They got the cards, stamps, and address labels. All they needed to do was write something and send it, although a few took the opportunity to send a card that meant something to them (and hopefully my mom).
I read all the postcards, although I stopped short of steaming open the cards in envelopes. In doing so, I was reminded of something, which is the second reason I’m sharing this experience.
The memories people shared were not huge events, but small moments. Making eclairs together. The bathing suit Mom used to wear, and my cousins’ summer visits with her and Dad before us kids came along. Going camping with our church campers’ club.
What all these have in common is simply this, enjoying each others’ company by spending time together.
Sometimes I think we get so enamored of our next big plan that we forget to enjoy the present. Or perhaps that’s just me.
The Postcard Project was a reminder to stop, to take a breath, and to focus on what’s in front of me.
Dear family and friends of Helen,
It’s hard to believe Mom will be 90 next month! She’s as feisty and beloved as ever, and we’d hoped to celebrate this landmark birthday in a big way.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 had other plans. When I wondered aloud what we could still do to make the day special, my daughter Sarah gave me a suggestion, which became the “Postcard Project.”
For Mom’s birthday, we would like people from all phases of her life to send her a birthday postcard. I hope you’ll join us.
Attached is one postcard (or more), address label(s) and stamp(s). All you need do is share a memory or birthday wishes, attach the stamp and label, and drop the card in a mailbox.
I’ve tried to choose cards that seemed appropriate, but if you have one you’d rather send, please feel free to do so.
Thanks for your help . With your assistance, we can make Mom’s day one to remember.
Kym and Sam