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Slices of Life: The joy of recycling birthdays

Jill Pertler

I forgot to give my husband his birthday card this year. I didn't forget his birthday. That would be unforgivable. I just forgot the card.

Actually, I didn't forget. I had it in the drawer at home, but we weren't at home on his birthday. So to my credit, I got him a card; I just didn't give it to him on the right day.

A couple of weeks later, I stumbled upon it in the drawer. It was a nice card and I'd chosen it carefully. I'd read through at least a half-dozen before finding the perfect one. Some cards can be so schmaltzy and sticky sweet.

This one was genuine. I could have written the words myself. I wish I had, but that would have taken quite a bit more effort than finding one on the rack.

His birthday may have been weeks ago, but there is no time like the present. Plus, there's no need to waste a perfectly good card. I figured if I didn't use it this year, I'd forget about it by next year and then I'd go out a buy a new one and we'd have two cards in the drawer and that would be a waste.

I put the card on the kitchen table, sans envelope. It had the words "Happy birthday to my husband" on the cover in big letters. It sat there for a day, unnoticed. I was afraid one of the kids might spill root beer on it so finally, I pointed it out to him.

"Here's the birthday card I had for you," I said, handing it to him.

And then I had my "Eureka!" moment. The card was perfect. It really was. And it was still brand-new. Not even written on. Even the envelope was pristine. Why use it this year only? Why not have it do double- (or triple-) duty?

"Read it now and then I'll give it to you again next year," I said, knowing it would be like new to both of us 12 months from now.

He smiled. "Good idea," he said.

I was surprised and in awe of his intellect and practicality.

Crazy, right? It's amazing how two people can think alike (even in a warped way) after lots of years of marriage. We're crazy like that. It's a gift.

"You can do the same for my birthday," I said. "We can give each other the same card year after year." I was surprised and disappointed in myself that we hadn't thought of this sooner.

"We'll save money," he said.

I laughed. "A couple of dollars." I've always been good at math.

"Plus it saves us time each year," he said. Again, practicality and intellect — from my perspective two of his top four favorite features.

I forgot my husband's birthday card this year, but I think all in all, things are turning out quite nicely. He had a regular birthday and then he got a revisit a couple of weeks later. It's like two birthdays in one with a reusable card that will never expire. And he agreed to it — practically came up with the idea himself.

After all these years he continues to amaze me — in a good way.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.