Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 12.11.11
Stanstead, Quebec


Say it with crudely drawn flowers

If you were to look up "adorable" in the dictionary, you would have a hard time because what's a dictionary?

But say you did manage to find a dictionary in a trunk filled with musty books, jammed between an atlas depicting the robust boundaries of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and a copy of Mark Twain's latest bestseller Autocar, Shmautocar!, you'd probably find beside the word "adorable" an illustration of a child's homemade greeting card.

Or probably not.

But let there be no doubt that there are few things as irresistible from a parental point of view as getting that hand-written card on your birthday or other special day, even if said card is a school-steered project or reeking of last-minute "oh-crap-it's-dad's-birthday" slapdashery.

As a former child prodigy of the proto-Hallmark oeuvre myself, I have a particular soft spot for anything scotch-taped and written in crayon. The mere smell of construction paper makes me misty. I'm pretty sure I'd tear up at a ransom note.

As much as I've loved the drawings of suns, trees, hearts and four-eyed stick-figure dads, the messages in the cards are the reason I store them in one of my bedroom drawers year after year. Why I store vintage Mad Magazines in a neighbouring drawer I can't really explain, but is it any wonder I have no room for socks?

Scanning through these old cards, I notice the messages range from the existential ("Happy birthday Dad I wish you a happy birthday how are you yes or no!") to the kiss-ass and/or deluded ("You're so awesome, you have big muscles and you're strong!"). My daughter Katie once made me a Father's Day card at school that seemed less a heartfelt sentiment than a weary attempt to reach minimum word count:

"Dear Dad, Today is a special day for you, I don't know why it's today but I'm glad it's today because for a person like you, you deserve a special day! So today I want you to know that you're my favourite dad in the hole universe! Kate XOXOX"

Sure, but will you still love me tomorrow...?

For one of his school-crafted Father's Day cards, my son James had to ascribe to me an attribute for each of the letters in "Je t'aime." J was for "joyeux." E was for "extra." Extra what, I'm not sure -- cheese, maybe. For "I" he wrote "inpacient"; points for honesty, points off for atrocious spelling.

James also may have been the first of our kids to get wise to the ultimate non-gift gift, the promise deferred, the contract not worth the paper it's pencil-crayoned on, the thought that sort of counts: the coupon.

"Happy Mothers Day. I will do the Londry. I will do the dishes. I will Mack Saper. I Love u Mom." Eight years later, we're still waiting for that saper -- unless "Mack Saper" was code for "pollute the bathroom with rancid hair and body products," in which case Contract Fulfilled!

This past Saturday was my birthday, and I received from Abby a pencil-drawn card on printer paper that I'm pretty sure was rendered mere minutes before gift-opening time, but sweet nonetheless.

"Happy birthday DAD! You are the coolest dad ever! [True.] You are 47 years old! [Also true.] You have a fluffy beard! [She gets "fluffy" and "hideous" confused.] You get 3 wishes!"

Three wishes! That's even better than the coupon for a van/car wash she gave me on Father's Day this year (complete with July 1, 2013 expiration date). What I could do with such an open-ended offer! I could wish her to walk the dog. I could wish her to sort my Mad Magazine drawer chronologically (but for God's sake don't open that other drawer!). I could wish her to set up a fan in the bathroom to air out the saper. Maybe I could wish her to give her mother a backrub thereby meeting the terms of that coupon I gave her in 2009.

Probably, though, I'll wish her to continue making me adorable homemade cards because hers are the only ones I get anymore.

Oh, and a jetpack. I should definitely wish for a jetpack!

Ross Murray's collection, You're Not Going to Eat That, Are You?, is available in Quebec in area book stores and through He can be reached at