Feb 18, 2011

Hallmark Has A Point?

“I’m sorry for your loss…”  
It’s what you’re supposed to say.  But even as the words left my lips and resonated in my brain, I thought about how empty, generic and half hearted they seemed.  As I listened to his voice on the voicemail I rehearsed saying it, but each time it sounded wrong.  I wanted a Hallmark zinger; something short, sweet and powerful.
At this point even if it rhymed and skimmed the surface of cheesy, I thought that it would have been better than “I’m sorry for your loss.”
This was a person I spent my childhood summers beside.  He was someone I’ve known for almost two decades and I felt like the words “I’m sorry for your loss” were desensitizing
his situation.
This is when I really needed Hallmark, but instead was left to my own devices.  Suddenly the voicemail beeped indicating for me to speak...
Hey… it’s me.” I sounded too chipper; I tried to adjust my tone.  “I heard about your dad…” Shit, now I sounded too depressing, I need to fix that {Long Pause}
I know you don’t have a sister, so I guess that makes me the closest thing… so, I had to call you.   I’m so sorry.” {Another Long Pause}
If you need to talk or you need a drink or you need a ride because you’ve already had too many drinks… just call me.  Love you.”
I hung up. 
It didn’t rhyme, it didn’t flow, there was no unearthing the meaning of life… but it did the job. Hallmark however, would have had an elegant way for me to state that, so I didn’t have to stumble over myself. Like I feel I just did.
It’s moments like this that remind me why, even writers like myself, pay $6.99 for pre-packaged words beautiful organized into a harmonious greeting card.
It’s not because I couldn’t do it myself.  I’m a writer; of course I could have put something to together… for someone else. But this situation was different, he’s my friend and I knew his dad and...
It’s just when emotions cloud the logical and productive side of our brain, it’s difficult to pull the feelings out and stick them onto a page.
Maybe this is why the cards seem to stick for me?
You see, Valentine’s Day is over, the flowers have wilted, the stuffed animals settled into their  home a top of a bookshelf.  The chocolates have been picked through and eaten; what are left are the undesired flavors marred by tiny nibbles, taken from the corner, to differentiate caramels from peanuts.  The champagne has been popped, the surprises over and most of the red and pink mayhem has been marked yellow with a “Clearance” sign. Things have swiftly gone back to normal.
In the aftermath of Valentine’s Day, I’m going to admit, it’s a whole lot of fluff for what I call, one silly “Hallmark Holiday.”  I’m down on Valentines, not because I’m bitter and single (that’s only half true ha-ha) mostly though because if you love someone, don’t save your money to buy overpriced roses on February 14th
Instead buy a single rose from the drug store on a random Tuesday.  To me, little private reminders, casually scattered throughout the year mean more than some showy gesture on V-day that is motivated sometimes just to “keep up with the Jones.”
With that being said, there is one aspect to the debacle that does have sticking power.  For me, what stands the test of time is ironically enough, the cards.  The cards, which are the foundation of Hallmark.  The words strung together on some half-folded piece of overpriced laminated paper.
I mean who the hell decided we should pay $6.99 for a greeting card? But we do.  And it’s usually
includes some cheesy catch phrase or rhyming idiom that are supposed to explain the meaning of life, but really just act as a cryptogram.
So, yeah, these cards are obnoxiously “Hallmark,” but we buy them anyway.
In fact we feel out of place giving a gift for any occasion without them. With each passing Holiday we continue to perform the ritual of card shopping.  The ritual of dumping money to buy words written by someone else, in hopes that it can accurately express how we feel about the recipient.  We buy the cards to personalize the day, gift, occasion.
Whether it’s a need to express sorrow and a condolence, or a chance to express elation and love… we look to greeting cards.
The words, the message, the feelings they evoke come alive with each and every read.
Since I was a child I always saved my cards. The wrapping paper, boxes, ribbons, bows were all quickly cleaned up into the garbage.  Eventually the gift became outdated, broken, old… Somehow touched by time. But the cards remain.
I used to put them in the top drawer of my dresser after every Birthday, Christmas, Communion, etc.  But by the time I was a tween, the drawer became full and now they sit in an egg crate in the back of my closet.
I’ve considered throwing them all out and making room for more shoe racks, but as much as I love Shoes…I can’t do it. 
I’m not really sure what I’m saving them for.  I mean, what the hell, am I going to do with a huge stack of old cards?  But I can’t bring myself to get rid of them.  As I continued to get older, I’ve added graduation cards; welcome home cards, good luck cards, and romantic cards to the bin.
They are like a timeline of my life.  Some were encouraging for scary beginnings, some were congratulatory for confident middles, and some were sympathetic for bittersweet endings.
The cards tend to hold more clout than the “stuff.” The flowers, candy, even an embrace… all have a shelf life.  The cards, however, memorialize our feelings.  They don’t expire, they don’t wilt away, and they don’t just live in the moment.  So next time you buy a card, think about the power it has and choose carefully…
Is Valentine’s Day an overpriced marketing ploy?
Is it ridiculous that we pay over $6.99 for a disposable card that may only be read once?
Do we need that sappy “Hallmark” shit every now and then?
The answer to all of these is “YES.”
"Life is a special occasion so celebrate” –Hallmark