DIVAGATING\r\nBy Gwen S., Clarke\r\n\r\nBack when \u201crecycling\u201d was just beginning to have ecological connotations (the word isn\u2019t even in my trusty 1956 Webster\u2019s), I sent my good buddy, Annie Bee a birthday card that began, \u201cThis is the Age of Ecology.\u201d\r\nInside was the portentous message: \u201cDon\u2019t throw this card away\u2014recycle it to a friend! Happy Birthday! \u201c\r\nIt was 1977. \u201cStar Wars\u201d was just a movie, President Carter alerted us to an energy crisis, nine million New Yorkers found themselves in the dark and, if that wasn\u2019t bad enough, Elvis up and died!\r\nTwo months and six days later, I had a birthday. Back came the card, from Annie Bee and her husband, Jack. In 1978, I noted that Cycle #3 \u201cmakes this a tricycled card\u201d and added our first son-in-law to the closing roster that had previously included spouse, self, and our three offspring.\r\nDuly, by Cycle #5, the first of seven grandchildren joined the well-wishers.\r\nBy Cycle #11, everyone knew who shot J.R., Russia was running all over the heavens (and Afghanistan) and a handsome actor had replaced the peanut farmer in the White House.\r\nAs years passed, the card became a metaphor for our dinner table. A leaf was added to the table and the first of 17 (so far) sheets was appended to the card.\r\nAnne acknowledged our age difference (a mere seven years) and let the poetic Pandora out of the box when I hit a milestone birthday on Cycle #14:\r\n\u201cAh, yes, today\u2019s the day we greet with care!\r\nHow do we know? We\u2019ve been there.\u201d\r\nAnne and her sentimental Irish husband shared the countless momentous occasions in our three-rugrat domicile, with Jack growing more misty-eyed over the rites of passage than either parent.\r\nCycle #16 was the last time his signature was there.\r\nWhen cycle #17 came due, I waxed sentimental: If it weren\u2019t for high tide, there\u2019d be no pretty shells. The Irishman would have lapped it up.\r\nIn 1988, our ricocheting robin had farther to travel than the usual ten blocks. My husband and I moved from the sun belt to this four-season climate, where both Anne and Hurricane Hugo managed to find us. Tremors from my October 17 birthday celebration were felt as far away as San Francisco, oil stained the coast of Alaska, and ecology had become a household word.\r\nA force of nature named Andrew further tightened the ties that bind, as Anne\u2019s home, in the lee of a gigantic fallen tree sheltered members of both families. Its repercussions prompted #33\u2019s doggerel:\r\nFrom \u201992 to \u201993, we lived in high anxiety.\r\nAnd just in case you think I\u2019m kiddin\u2019-\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s an ill wind that blows no good\u201d.\r\nIt didn\u2019.\r\nWe\u2019ve tacitly omitted gut-wrenching happenings from THE CARD. Anne\u2019s mother, quirky, enigmatic Lady Josephine slept away on the fifteenth anniversary of Jack\u2019s death; my own dear one was soon to follow. As a measure of my friend, she showed up, as our family gathered, with a huge sliced ham and a package of split peas. \u201cMy flowers for Nana,\u201d said Lady Josephine\u2019s practical daughter.\r\nWhen Father Time\u2019s odometer turned over all four digits, concerns about viruses plagued 295 million computer users. Fortunately, email did not replace our birthday card, which continued to snail through the mail.\r\nCycle #51 trumpeted a great-granddaughter. Cycle #69 is self-explanatory:\r\nTo say we\u2019re oldsters is just nuts!\r\nWho\u2019d even think that is a putz!\r\nWe\u2019ve put in our time\r\nAnd we\u2019ve done it in rhyme,\r\nSo, even with a walker,\r\nWe struts.\r\nA few decades ago, I\u2019d have been sitting on my eyelashes, wondering what was coming next. Now, experience tells me that I will find out soon enough. Although I wish I could be like the little Dutch boy, with my finger in the dike of time, stemming its gush, I know better. Recognizing and savoring what\u2019s good and coming to terms with the rest is the best I can do.\r\nSome mornings, when I wake up and realize that another week or month or year has gone by since I last made note of it, I know the value of a thing like this 40-year-old card, being stamped, as we speak, and sent on its 79th cycle.