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The FaceTime alert on the iPad started jingling around noontime. That usually means the grandkids are calling.

Knowing how low their tolerance for delay can be, I quickly tapped the display to accept the call. Sure enough, three chattering children filled the screen, each waving a colorful greeting card that they had just collected from the mailbox.

After a short chat – well, maybe more of a whirlwind of questions and an attempt to give each of the children equal time and attention, Chloe’s voice cut through with a request for an explanation. “What does “accessory” mean?” she asked, staring into the camera while I fumbled for an answer.

“Uh, well, um, I guess…”

I was saved from further flummoxing by the arrival of the keeper of all things card-related, the tracker of tidings, the manager of messaging, the Queen of Cards, Nana Jan. She quickly and authoritatively answered Chloe’s question, using an example of a purse that goes with an outfit. Chloe got it right away, responding with a crisp set of accessories based on Jan’s definition. “Oh, I get it. Like a bracelet. Or a necklace.”

“Exactly!” Jan answered. She then went down the line, speaking to each kid in a way that was very specific to how they communicate. River studied her card, reading the text and describing the pictures. Ben happily waved his card at the camera, spilling words and word-like sounds that joyfully conveyed his interpretation of what his card contained.

Jan has always been a card-sender. Birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, births, and deaths require a card that captures the right sentiment, with the right words or a meaningful image. I can’t count the number of times she will say, “I need to pick up a card for…” She finds them in the local places, like Among Friends. She’ll somehow extract the perfect greeting from the rack at the Cookie Crock, or get lucky and discover something funny or poignant at the Post Office. Sometimes she adds a short note, other times just a “Love, Jan.”

But these kids, they get Super Nana. Cards are just a small part of how she lets them know she is always thinking about them. Small gifts will appear in their mailbox. Twirling ribbons for the girls. A collection of Matchbox cars for Ben. Magazine subscriptions from Highlights and National Geographic Kids land in rotation. Zoo memberships so they have a place to visit where they can run, laugh, and learn about the magnificent animals that share our planet. Books are chosen and sent, to be read together when the time comes to sit side by side once again and explore the stories revealed through paper and ink.

I know, no matter how many birthdays or anniversaries we have left together, there will be a card sitting on the table when I wake up. And I know that every son, daughter-in-law, sister, niece or nephew, and dear friend stand a good chance of seeing that familiar, bold hand-written envelope appear on a special day.

Queen of Cards? More like the Queen of Hearts.

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