Friday, September 2, 2011

40 cards

40 cards
In June, we celebrated Larry's 40th birthday with a fancy dinner at Volt, a hike in Shenandoah, and a getaway weekend at Luminhaus that included hiking Mount Pleasant and Crabtree Falls, and stops at Blue Mountain Brewery and Foamhenge.

Despite all that, Larry's favorite birthday surprise was a simple card project that I began in secret the month before his birthday. Since I couldn't afford to rent a party house in Aruba and fly everyone we knew there to celebrate, I had to come up with a more creative alternative to include friends and family from across the country in his birthday celebration. Months before, I'd bookmarked an awesome idea for a puzzle card on Jordan Ferney's Oh Happy Day. Larry loves to get mail and I knew something similar would be perfect for his big 4-0. I started compiling a list of people to include in the project, and thanks to the power of Facebook was able to collect the addresses of some of Larry's oldest childhood friends.

Then I used Photoshop to design an image for the front of the puzzle - a robot. What six forty year old boy doesn't love robots? I divided the image into 40 separate files and had them printed as 5"x7" postcards at Winkflash. Then I sent each person on my address list one of the postcards, a colorful pre-stamped envelope addressed to Larry, and the instructions to mail the card to him during the week of his birthday.
40 cards
40 cards
A few days before his birthday, Larry got the first card. He was so confused by it. "I got the weirdest postcard in the mail for my birthday", he said. I was able to keep a straight face.

The next day, he got the second card. He marched in from the mailbox, completely perplexed by the card that had an envelope that matched the card he received the day before.

"What the < bleep >  is going on?!", he exclaimed. "Something is confusing me!" I had to leave the room to keep from cracking up. I watched as he held up the two cards side-by-side and inspected them. "It's a mystery!", he said.

He came into the other room where I was biting my tongue to keep from exploding with laughter. "Did you have something to do with this?", he asked. I couldn't keep a straight face any longer. Then he started figuring it out. He was so excited when he realized it was a puzzle. He looked at those two pieces over and over again, trying to figure out what the image was. (I think at some point he guessed it was a horse!)

Once he realized that he was going to receive 40 of them, he was obsessed. Every day, he'd call me from work to ask me if he had received any more cards in the mail. And every evening he'd puzzle over what the image was... and he finally did figure out that it was a robot. "I'm very happy it's a robot!", he exclaimed. See what I mean? Every six forty year old boy does love robots!
Larry's 40th Birthday
40 cards
Larry's 40th Birthday
The cards trickled in over about a two week span, and ultimately, he received 39 out of 40. I know. One missing card. We're no longer friends with that guy. JUST KIDDING! I actually thought we'd end up missing several, and I know things get lost in the mail and people get busy/distracted so it's pretty amazing that there was only one card that didn't get returned.
40 cards
The messages that people sent Larry were amazing. Everyone was far more creative than I expected - they sent limericks, jokes, song lyrics, drawings, collages, photos, heartfelt messages, and stories of his past. Each message was perfect in the way it described the friendship the sender had with Larry - everyone from childhood friends to college roommates to co-workers who had known Larry at different stages of his life over the past forty years.

Anyway, once he'd received all 40 39 cards, he assembled the puzzle:
40 cards
40 cards
40 cards
Ta-da!
40 cards
However, the back - with everyone's messages - was even more amazing than the front:
40 cards
While all the messages were fantastic, there were a few favorites that stood out. This card from Larry's best friend summarizes their entire 21 year friendship...in beer. Perfect:
40 cards
And this was hands down the funniest card - Larry and I roared with laughter:
40 cards
I wrote him a list of 40 things I love about him (yes, I did fit all 40 on the postcard):
40 cards
His parents really got into the project and included the cutest pictures of little Larry:
40 cards
Check out adorable Larry on his 3rd birthday (picture on the right). "I have TWO CAKES!"

And Larry's awesome nephew sent the funniest message - love this! (I'm saving this card to send back to his nephew when he turns 40...I'm sure he'll get a kick out of that fantastic white tux 24 years from now!)
40 cards
One of the cards even came with this hilarious bonus. There couldn't be six more perfect categories to describe Larry:
40 cards
And of course the dogs gave him cards, too:
40 cards
40 cards
Larry loved the surprise more than I ever dreamed he would. I thought he would think it was cute, but he was thrilled each day he got cards and he spent hours reading and re-reading the messages. 

"This is the most thoughtful thing anyone has ever done for me in my entire life!", he told me. 

(I wrote that down in my journal so I wouldn't forget!)
Larry's 40th Birthday
40 cards
The project turned out so much better than I had hoped. I'll admit, I was a bit worried that people wouldn't send them back - but I never should've second guessed our friends and family - they were so thrilled to participate in the project and the messages they sent were more heartfelt, more funny, and more perfectly Larry than I ever could have predicted. To those of you who participated in the project, a huge THANK YOU. You made Larry's day week month year.

10 comments:

Michael - Innkeeper said...

call me overly emotional, but i seriously started to cry reading this.

you both have a beautiful relationship and are so lucky to have found each other!

simply beautiful.

Sarah Rooftops said...

So lovely. You're right - the backs all laid out together are amazing. What a lucky man!

Juanita said...

A grand gesture for un grand amour! Bravo.

Karen Travels said...

LOVE THIS!!!!

Arby said...

Very, very cool! A true gift of thoughtfulness both outward and returned. Makes me believe in people again..... Well, ALMOST! Great job!

Abby said...

OMG Rachel -- you never cease to amaze me! You are so freaking clever and I wish I had even a shred of your creativity in my body! And I love seeing the completed puzzle and the fact that we were included. I can just imagine how giddy Larry must have been with this gift. So sweet!

eileen marie said...

Clever and creative Funnelcloud Rachel strikes again! The look on Larry's face in these photos is priceless! What an amazingly sweet gesture. I am seriously thinking of doing this for my husband's 30th birthday in Oct., but I don't think I have time!
PS: I never noticed it before, but your home looks gorgeous! You should do a virtual house tour!

eileen marie said...

PS: Where did you get those great envelopes??

Funnelcloud Rachel said...

Thanks, Eileen! The envelopes are the Brights from here (available in different sizes):

http://www.clearbags.com/stationery/envelopes?cat=93

Engin Tanis said...

Can't believe I am just seeing this. Too cool! I want to be on the new list!