If you were to look up “adorable” in the dictionary, you would have a hard time because what’s a dictionary?
But say you did manage to find a dictionary in a trunk filled with musty books, jammed between an atlas depicting the robust boundaries of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and a copy of Mark Twain’s latest bestseller Autocar, Shmautocar!, you’d probably find beside the word “adorable” an illustration of a child’s homemade greeting card.
Or probably not.
But let there be no doubt that there are few things as irresistible from a parental point of view as getting that hand-written card on your birthday or other special day, even if said card is a school-steered project or reeking of last-minute “oh-crap-it’s-dad’s-birthday” slapdashery.
As a former child prodigy of the proto-Hallmark oeuvre myself, I have a particular soft spot for anything scotch-taped and written in crayon. The mere smell of construction paper makes me misty. I’m pretty sure I’d tear up at a ransom note.
As much as I’ve loved the drawings of suns, trees, hearts and four-eyed stick-figure dads, the messages in the cards are the reason I store them in one of my bedroom drawers year after year. Why I store vintage Mad Magazines in a neighbouring drawer I can’t really explain, but is it any wonder I have no room for socks?
Scanning through these old cards, I notice the messages range from the existential (“Happy birthday Dad I wish you a happy birthday how are you yes or no!”) to the kiss-ass and/or deluded (“You’re so awesome, you have big muscles and you’re strong!”). My daughter Katie once made me a Father’s Day card at school that seemed less a heartfelt sentiment than a weary attempt to reach minimum word count:
“Dear Dad, Today is a special day for you, I don’t know why it’s today but I’m glad it’s today because for a person like you, you deserve a special day! So today I want you to know that you’re my favourite dad in the hole universe! Kate XOXOX”
Sure, but will you still love me tomorrow…?
For one of his school-crafted Father’s Day cards, my son James had to ascribe to me an attribute for each of the letters in “Je t’aime.” J was for “joyeux.” E was for “extra.” Extra what, I’m not sure – cheese, maybe. For “I” he wrote “inpacient”; points for honesty, points off for atrocious spelling.
James also may have been the first of our kids to get wise to the ultimate non-gift gift, the promise deferred, the contract not worth the paper it’s pencil-crayoned on, the thought that sort of counts: the coupon.
“Happy Mothers Day. I will do the Londry. I will do the dishes. I will Mack Saper. I Love u Mom.” Eight years later, we’re still waiting for that saper – unless “Mack Saper” was code for “pollute the bathroom with rancid hair and body products,” in which case Contract Fulfilled!
This past Saturday was my birthday, and I received from Abby a pencil-drawn card on printer paper that I’m pretty sure was rendered mere minutes before gift-opening time, but sweet nonetheless.
“Happy birthday DAD! You are the coolest dad ever! [True.] You are 47 years old! [Also true.] You have a fluffy beard! [She gets “fluffy” and “hideous” confused.] You get 3 wishes!”
Three wishes! That’s even better than the coupon for a van/car wash she gave me on Father’s Day this year (complete with July 1, 2013 expiration date). What I could do with such an open-ended offer! I could wish her to walk the dog. I could wish her to sort my Mad Magazine drawer chronologically (but for God’s sake don’t open that other drawer!). I could wish her to set up a fan in the bathroom to air out the saper. Maybe I could wish her to give her mother a back rub thereby meeting the terms of that coupon I gave her in 2009.
Probably, though, I’ll wish her to continue making me adorable homemade cards because hers are the only ones I get anymore.
Oh, and a jet pack. I should definitely wish for a jet pack!