Remember that time you walked through the Hallmark section of the store and your hand automatically reached for the husband, mother or brother card? Then you caught yourself. You remember that person is no longer here and, before there’s a teary cleanup on Hallmark aisle 6, you make a quick detour from the land of schmaltzy cards.
Cleaning out my husband’s night table drawer a few months after he died, I found a Christmas, Valentine and two birthday cards – all unsigned. He had a funky habit of buying several cards for every occasion. Go figure. He gave some, saved some and some he couldn’t decide. I was just glad he wasn’t ‘that guy’ who made a blindfolded lunge for the biggest wife card from the rack, regardless of what it said. Nope, that guy’s cards were always carefully vetted, usually eerily expressing his emotions, which could span the galaxy, but always made their mark. And isn’t that what cards are SUPPOSED to do?
Years ago, romantic cards seemed to scream – nope, not for you, keep going. They’d often tick me off. In fact, I even considered creating an entire line of funky, alternative cards. Seriously, we all have at least one relationship that is MEH on a good day, so why not a card that matches? Something neutral, kind, not mean spirited but definitely not “Oh my goodness, how I love you”. Yeah, no.
Then I met my husband. One of the many best things I realized about being with him was that I could finally march into the card aisle with abandon. That’s right, I could walk right up to the lovey dovey cards, and pick one without cringing. That was no small deal, my friends. In fact, I actually looked forward to Valentine’s Day! Imagine that. I now had a reason to leave little ‘just because I love you’ notes around. And it felt more than right because I could say those three little words without choking on them.
Those who’ve experienced painful relationships, emotional and/or physical abuse, knee-capping betrayal or disappointment totally get it. They understand that just being able to be transparent in love, let alone declare it loudly, is groundbreaking. Being able to sustain it, through the grittiest, most crushing cancer moments – is a damn grateful love miracle!
I’ve seen a shift in greeting cards these days. They are more real, more edgy, less saccharine. They speak to diversity, to coping with cancer, to LGBT couples, and parenting in real life. Unfortunately, everything seems to have a price and greeting card prices today are bordering on a small mortgage. I get it. The greeting card industry is struggling to stay relevant – and solvent. Seriously though, if you need to choose between a card OR a gift, that’s just weird.
Meaning well doesn’t always mean saying it well. That’s why greeting cards are kind of like an instant “Speak for yourself, John Alden”. Hallmark moments will never change the world, but bringing a smile, assuring that you’re thought about, and being reminded that you’re loved is always a good thing.
These days, I still steer past the husband section. Bumping into lavish, loving spousal cards, when searching for one for my handsome son, can suck. It can send you to emotional places you don’t have on your itinerary that can pitch a monkey wrench in your placid errand schedule.
My widowed friends can totally relate.
I’m relieved we’re good with holiday cards — at least for a few months. I can use a break from sidestepping cringe worthy, lovey husband cards, or those to other people we’ve lost. Okay, maybe one day I’ll get one of those moonstruck “I love you cards” again. I might even have reason to send one, and I’m pretty sure my husband would be more than okay with that. The jokester who stashed those passionate cards in the night table would say, “Just step away from the rack and move on, kiddo”.
He was such a card.
Sent from my iPad
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Love this column, Mari. xoxoxo Miss you – can you meet me for lunch sometime soon? Week of Feb 4th?
Absolutely! I’ll text you a few dates? Miss you, too!!!
I only bought cards for my husband after they became so expensive. I was in the store yesterday with all the Valentine’s cards, balloons, candy, etc. It hit me that I don’t have a sweetie to buy a card for anymore. Odd I didn’t notice it the past two years. It made me sad. My husband always bought beautiful cards with just the right sentiment. He bought cards for no reason. I miss that.
Thank you so much for sharing that! I know so many of us feel that absentee card, like an actual presence and the emptiness of not being able to buy one for the one it was natural to. My thoughts are with you, Mary Ann!
Very nice. Rich is proud of You for many reasons, including your literary skills. Be well.