By: Marlene Oxender
It’s been kind of fun sorting through my mother’s collection of greeting cards. Not only did she save the cards that’d been sent to her, but she also saved her children’s cards. Her parents’ cards. Her wedding day cards. Anniversary cards. Get well cards.
Cards that date back to the 1930s. I have opened every card and read every name. Those with a note or letter in them are the best.
When I was growing up, Verna Gabriel resided in the house two doors east of ours. Her two sisters, Betty and Norma, lived in the home on the other side of hers. The three of them were retired, and my family referred to them as the “Gabriel girls.”
Verna owned a manual typewriter. There were times she changed the typewriter ribbon from black to green or red.
I thought her words, typed in color, was the best thing ever. I wanted to grow up and be like Verna. I had plans to be good at sending greeting cards to others. I would include a poem in my cards – just as Verna did.
I was reminded of her thoughtfulness when I came across a birthday card, she’d sent to my sister Jeanette.
Jeanette’s name was typed on the front of the envelope. Back then, there was no need for an address other than “Edgerton, Ohio,” Verna typed a poem and included it in Jeanette’s card:
“The Ostrich is a silly bird,
With scarcely any mind.
He often runs so very fast,
He leaves himself behind.
And when he gets there has to stand
And hang about til night,
Without a blessed thing to do
Until he comes in sight.”
I always knew ostriches could run fast, and they could not fly, but why does the poet say the ostrich is without a blessed thing to do? I think it has been since third grade since I’d read anything about the ostrich.
It made me wonder if I’d ever seen an ostrich at any of the zoos we visited. I looked online and learned that ostriches stand nine feet tall, and they often weigh 400 pounds. Did I know this?
And their eggs are equivalent to the size of 24 chicken eggs. It’s fun to watch the online videos of them running – for they can run up to 45 miles per hour.
I ordered a children’s book about ostriches and learned they are native to Africa and live in the grasslands. In the mornings and afternoons, ostriches feed.
They walk around slowly with their heads held high to watch out for danger. They rest in the middle of the day if it is hot. Females keep their eggs warm and safe during the day, and the males take over at night.
When it gets cold in the grasslands, an ostrich will wrap its wings around itself like a blanket.
All of us have heard about ostriches putting their heads in the sand. But the books tell us that’s a legend that may have started because people noticed ostriches picking up pebbles with their mouths. Ostriches ingest sand and pebbles which help them swallow their food.
Another reason may be because ostriches they will fall forward in the sand and lay their head on the ground if they feel threatened. This makes their body resemble a bush to passing predators. Ostriches will often do this if they are attempting to protect their eggs.
It’s been more than fifty years since Verna chose to include a poem about an ostrich in Jeanette’s birthday card. If Verna were here today, I would show her how the same poem can now be found online.
As I was growing up, if I wanted to visit with the Gabriel girls, all I had to do was knock on their door. No notice given. Just a kid at the door who would visit for a short while.
Verna taught me how to use knitting needles, but it was her interest in embroidery and needlework that stayed with me.
She and her sisters knew how to make crafts out of greeting cards. Although I still have Verna’s written instructions for the “Holiday Kissing Ball,” I was able to locate photos and online tutorials of the same paper crafts the sisters were making in the ’70s.
Occasionally, the Gabriel girls would walk uptown to the library and grocery store. As the years passed, and they needed someone to drive them to the store, I had grown up and could help.
As a child, I really did appreciate them, and I knew they were making a difference in my life. They had time to show me that hobbies and interest in the things of this world are important.
Whether they were outside poking around in their flower beds, or inside peering out their picture window at the bird feeder, in my mind they were cultured in the finer things in life.
When we give of our time to those who want to know how we do what we do, we’re paying it forward. We’re on this earth to live. To teach others. To enjoy the little things.
If vintage greeting cards are considered a little thing, I have plenty of little things to share with others – which I do on my dottingmyteas website.
I’ve been writing for several years now, and my writing has taken me into a world of looking back – which took me into a world of noticing things. A world where we’re here to observe. Learn. Grow. And love.
Marlene Oxender is a writer, speaker, and author. She writes about growing up in the small town of Edgerton, her ten siblings, the memorabilia in her parents’ estate, and her younger brother, Stevie Kimpel, who was born with Down syndrome. Her two recently published books, Picket Fences and Stevie, are available on Amazon.