Dianna Jensen gave her sister June Fellhauer a much-anticipated gift for her birthday this year.
“Here’s your crummy old card — happy birthday,” said Jensen on Wednesday, laughing as tears came to her eyes as she hugged her sister.
Then they both began crying as Fellhauer opened the card held together by tape and staples.
The sisters have shared this keepsake card for 25 years, passing it back and forth as a joke.
It started in 1985 when Jensen purchased the card — a happy belated-birthday card depicting a cartoon donkey carrying a heavy load down a long country road — for Fellhauer but forgot to sign it.
Fellhauer, then 23, thought it would be funny to send it back, unsigned, six months later in honor of her sister’s 27th birthday. She took care to make sure it was late.
For years, the card passed back and forth unsigned. Then the sisters started writing short notes to each other so they could chronicle the years.
The card was sent to New Mexico, England and Germany. Jensen traveled the world with her first husband, who was in the military.
A good amount of time the card also resided in Fellhauer’s underwear drawer in Grand Junction, except for that time in 1998, when she lost it.
After receiving the card at a birthday lunch in June, Fellhauer made a quick stop at Harding Glass. She left the card on the counter and didn’t remember it until Jensen’s birthday rolled around in January.
Fellhauer could not remember where she had left the card. Finally, she had to admit to her sister that she had lost the card after 15 years.
“She started getting upset. It was like I had ruined Dianna’s life,” Fellhauer said, then laughingly added that Jensen is the more emotional of the two.
Finally, Fellhauer recalled her trip to the glass company.
“I called them and I said, ‘You’re going to think I’m a crazy lady, but I think I left a card there back in June,’ ” Fellhauer said.
“And this is where I really think that God cares about the smallest things,” she said. The staff at Harding Glass recognized the value of the card, putting it in their safe, just in case the owner ever came back for it.
Fellhauer didn’t tell Jensen she had found the card until she presented it to her, very belatedly. In her note, Fellhauer blamed the loss on Y2K, a popular excuse at the time.
Of course, Jensen cried again.
“I never want to go through that trauma again,” Jensen said.
The card and the short notes have become a private journal between sisters.
They have thanked each other for love and support through good times and bad. They’ve cheered each other on, marveled at successes and made each other laugh.
The card chronicles the sisters’ lives with husbands, kids, grandchildren and pets.
It also has helped them laugh about their ages, especially on 40 and 50.
Each looks forward to getting the card despite the fact that it means they are getting older.
“Things like this are absolutely just priceless,” Jensen said, estimating that they’ve saved at least a couple hundred bucks by recycling the same card.
It was a joke that Fellhauer, who is known for frugality, appreciated. To her, though, the card represents the importance of sisterhood.
“In a time when commitment is not a big deal anymore, it just means so much to have faithfulness and family,” she said.
The card has kept them close, even when they weren’t. Now the sisters live less than a mile apart.
Wednesday’s birthday note from Jensen reads: “May we continue our journey for another 25 years of card giving, giving support and loving each other for the rest of our lives.”
After all, that’s what birthday’s are for.