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Use cards to evoke emotion

The card read, "Happy birthday, son." It continued, "And even though today is a long way from your childhood adventures, the same love that hugged and cuddled you then is the same love that cares and wants the best for you now."

This was a message from the birthday card that my parents gave me for my 21st birthday. It showed the genuine love that was stashed deep within their hearts for me. The only problem was that while the sentiment was theirs, the words weren't. "Who cares if Hallmark wrote it or we did — it's exactly how we feel about you," my parents would say. This was an answer that was all too familiar to me. Year after year, I would receive a beautifully adorned card, with a "To our wonderful son," at the top and a generic message sandwiched inside and a conclusion that read "Love, your parents." Perhaps this was a cultural norm with the older members of my family because my aunts and uncles did the same.

Like my family, we sometimes tend to forget the value of a sincere birthday card. It seems to have become a tradition to buy a glamorous birthday gift and a bubbly, music playing card to simply let someone know who the gift is from.

A birthday card is much more than that. There's an entire page and a half left intentionally empty for you to fill up with magical moments you've experienced with the other person. It is an opportunity to reminisce about the embarrassing blunders you've shared, the happy times in the summer sun and the salty tears they gently brushed from your cheeks when you were feeling down. A card is a marker of your existence, a mini-biography that tells a story about your life from a loved one's perspective.

I turned 21 years old this January, and I've received a bunch of cards that sang to me, popped out at me and told me how I should party now that I'm of drinking age. My best friend Hamzah's card was no different. It said "Happy birthday, brother" on the cover. Inside, next to a pair of handcuffs and a cartoon police car, was a beige-colored page filled with his writing.

It started out, "I can't believe you're 21 already! We're adults now, but to think about it … we still act like kids, lol." The fact is, we sometimes still act like we did when we were 9 and first met outside my apartment building. We played baseball together, went to Six Flags and snuck into movies. We spent a phase of our young lives learning social norms together. We solidified our best friend status one day in fifth grade, when I asked if he would be my best friend. He said yes, and we've spent many happy years acting like we were still in elementary school.

The next card I received was one of those cards that are supposed to be funny but really aren't. It was from my other best friend, Mo. He quoted rapper Kanye West toward the middle, "People don't get the flowers while they can still smell them." He continued, "So if I could, I would give you a garden everyday." This was the kind of person Mo was, genuine and sentimental is his own wacky way.

I wish I could continue writing about all the wonderful handwritten cards that I've received from my friends and family but that would take up too much space. The point is that each card elicits a memory I had with that person during a particular stage of my life. I honestly don't remember most of the presents I received for my 18th birthday, but I do remember the card that one of my cousins gave me. It said, "Now you can finally buy lottery tickets, here's one to start you off." Although this was the last thought that was going through my mind, it gave me a good laugh.

One of the best presents I've ever received is taped to the wall in front of me right now. It's a handmade card that my friend Neha made for me. It reads, "Happy 21st, future politician." Surrounding this was a pop-out picture of the Capitol building and a gavel. A miniature version of the Constitution was glued toward the top and stickers of the American flag were placed throughout the cover. I cherish this card because it conveys to me that Neha understands me as a person.

The next time you pick out a card, make sure to include the personal sentiments that you shared with that person. When you receive a sincerely written card, tape it to your wall. You'll be surprised by the emotions it can evoke. A card has the power to rekindle a lost relationship, a kinetic energy that has the ability to uplift spirits and most of all, it tells the recipient that you appreciate their presence in your life.

Amit Jani is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies with a minor in political science. His column, "The Fourth Estate," runs on alternate Wednesdays.

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