When Robbie Griggs turned 85 in late February she was hoping for a few cards from friends and family. The lively woman lives off Hangman Creek and she keeps busy with creative writing classes, quilting, Victorian teas and all sorts of other things.
So when the mail carrier arrived with a handful of cards, Griggs was delighted.
Then the next day there were 12 cards in the mail.
And one morning there were more than two dozen.
“I was dumbfounded, it touched my heart,” said Griggs. “Many of the cards really expressed the feelings of the sender – but I couldn’t figure out why I got so many cards.”
Until her niece gave it away.
“She was the one who said, ‘You’ve been card showered,’ and I just couldn’t believe it,” said Griggs.
She received 105 birthday cards – including one from a quilting friend in Cornwall, England.
It was Griggs’ daughter Shelly Balser of Kettle Falls who was behind the shenanigans.
“Every day she’d call and say, ‘You’ll never guess who I got a card from today,’ ” said Balser of her mother. “And I’d just laugh.”
Balser had gotten ahold of Griggs’ Christmas card list and she’d looked around a little bit more, trying to find as many names and addresses of her mom’s friends and family as she could.
Then she sent everyone a little card encouraging them to write Griggs in honor of her big birthday.
Friends told friends, family told family, and soon the cards were arriving by the handful.
“My daughter really must have been snooping around here quite a bit,” said Griggs, sitting in her small sunny kitchen. “I just couldn’t believe it. I have such great children, I really do. This just tickled me.”
The most unexpected sender was perhaps the son of a man Griggs was briefly engaged to back in 1946.
She’d had some contact with him lately, but was still surprised.
“And I heard from some of my husband’s fraternity brothers, too,” said Griggs.
Her husband died almost eight years ago.
Born in Pittsburgh, Pa., Griggs came west via Illinois and ended up in Denver.
“I traveled with my husband, we were going to see some of the country before we settled down,” said Griggs. “We ran out of money in Denver and lived there for 54 years.”
She was a court reporter for the district court there for many years, before she and her late husband moved to Kettle Falls to be closer to her daughter.
She’s been in Spokane for the past eight years.
“I figured I should be closer to the hospitals,” she said. “And I want to be close to the airport so I can get out of town once in a while.”
All the birthday cards sit in a little basket on her kitchen table. Griggs had begun writing thank-you notes, but things got a little out of control once the cards started piling up.
Now her grandson is helping her mass produce a card with a poem to send to all the people who wrote her.
“I like writing, I always did, and I think sending them a little poem I wrote is a good idea,” said Griggs.
Does this mean she’ll have a hugely long Christmas card list?
“I hadn’t thought that far ahead to Christmas so maybe it does?” Griggs said.
She has no plans of slowing down any time soon. Her parents lived to be 93 and 99, and she figures she’ll do the same. And there’s this: “I really want to see my name on a book. I want to publish a book before it’s too late,” she said.
As for the birthday card shower, it is one birthday present she’ll never forget.
“Would I do it for someone else?” Griggs asks. “Yes, it could happen. I could see that happen.”