On Christmas Eve, my brother presented Little L a homemade holiday card in lieu of a gift. Scrawled in black sharpie, it said, “I know one day when you’re older and able to read, you won’t have this card because Carissa will recycle it tonight.”

That wasn’t exactly true – it took me a few weeks to go through the holiday paper accumulations. I scanned the card. And then rather than dropping it in the recycling, I sent it to do a pre-recycle stint in Little L’s Purple Box of Paper (she takes after Axel with her love for shuffling papers). She can look at the photos and cards that came this holiday season before they meet their fate.

Like my brother, who is wise not to spend more than 3 cents on a sheet of printer paper for his holiday wishes, I am quite aware of what happens to cards. For most people, at least. My friend Thom, upon seeing Little L’s Purple Box, told me he keeps his holiday cards.

“Every year?” I asked.

“Yup,” he answered. “But I could be convinced otherwise.”

While that’s not my job, per se, I do hope he starts some sort of holiday card plan. He has a large basement for storage, but after a few more years of this, he might need to build a storage locker in the backyard or start a Second-Hand Holiday Card store. He has a lot of friends and family.

One day last week I took the recycling down to the garage. I opened the second bin from the right – the middle one is usually full, so I always go for the one-off.

I was about to pour my recycling in when I saw it.

Was that a card… from me!?

I would recognize my cheap Target cards anywhere. Plus the not-really-cursive and not-really-not-cursive mix of capitals and lowercase looked quite similar to my signature scrawl (I was known as the Poster Queen in high school for my stellar sign-making skills).

Upon a bit of closer inspection, it was indeed a sympathy card that I had written for a neighbor who had lost a pet.

I told Axel about it later.

“Well, I mean, you didn’t expect them to keep it forever, did you?”

“No, no.”

I mean, I was actually proud of them that they had thrown it out. So promptly, too. They really were on top of their stuff.

“It’s just – you don’t expect to see your own card in your own recycling bin.”

“Makes you think twice about writing paper cards, doesn’t it?” Axel pointed out.

card in recycling bin
Reenactment of finding the card in the recycling – I was too stunned in the moment to gather the evidence. This is actually a card that I was recycling. Not from a neighbor, I will add.

I like my paper cards. I don’t want to stop giving them or getting them. I also don’t want to keep them indefinitely.

Some of you may have been thinking it was going to be a card I had given Axel that he dropped in the bin. For a few reasons, that wouldn’t be.

A) Axel is a bit of a paper shuffler. I doubt he would be downsizing his own papers without my prompting.

B) Axel lives with me. I often downsize his papers (with his permission of course). A card I had written to Axel would likely have been scanned – by me – and have been in my recycling bag, not in the bin.

C) Axel knows what a snoop I am. In a situation where A and B didn’t ring true, he would take that card to work and recycled it there.

Now are you wondering if the neighbors scanned their card? I was concerned about that too, especially given the quick turnover. Just in case they had overlooked it, I snapped a photo and texted it to them for good measure.

Just kidding. At least I hope you think I am.