Saturday, June 23, 2007
Hallmark Moments
I filled my cart with things I didn’t really need, circling the store several times under the guise of “stocking up.” It was my third such trip in a week and I was aware time was getting short and I could no longer avoid what I’d really come to shop for. So I reluctantly maneuvered my cart into the card isle, my stomach tightening with anxiety.

I hate the card isle. It’s been a source of anxiety for me since I was a child trying to find a mother’s day, birthday or Christmas card that didn’t say what wasn’t true, but was neither insulting. Sometimes, I could manage to pick a card by visualizing its insides dripping in sarcasm “Thanks for the Memories” can mean more than one thing – especially if you were raised by my mother. Not sending a card was never an option. My mother literally kept a logbook of people she sent cards and gifts to. If they did not reply with a thank you or add her to their Christmas list, she added them to a running list of uncouth associates – and was very vocal about the names on that list.

As a result, my literal Hallmark Moments are few and far between.

As fate would have it, my birthmother ended up being a serial card sender too. In the beginning of our relationship, her cards came almost weekly. I, in turn, braved the card isle, trying to pick out something appropriate. When Mother’s Day or Christmas rolled around, I found myself in the same awkward position – it isn’t easy finding a sentiment for one’s birthmother. Not even “Thanks for the Memories” works – because there are no memories.

So there I was again, standing in the card isle with my stomach threatening to leap from my body and tears streaming down my cheeks. It had been years since I’d sent a card to either of my mothers. This time, I was not choosing one out of guilt or obligation. I truly wanted my birthmother, who is dying, to receive something from me. But what? Nothing seemed to fit and I hated that more than the thought of her death.

The tears came from the child in me who would just, for once, like to stand in the card isle and know exactly what to do; the child who would like to read one of those syrupy sweet “for my mother” cards and mean every corny word; the child who would like to have a father to choose a father’s day card for. I’ve given up that dream, but part of me still protests.

I knew what I didn’t want to say to my birthmother in her dying days. I didn’t want to address the past. I wasn’t seeking resolution. I wasn’t hoping for some affirmation of love for me, an apology or even a response. I just wanted her to know I was thinking of her and that I was sorry her life was coming to an end.

It took me nearly an hour, but I finally chose a “Thinking of You” card, decorated in delicate looking leaves. It took another four days to add my sentiment and mail it. These would be my last words, ever, to my birthmother. They needed to matter.

Inside I wrote:

I am sorry to hear of the difficulty you are facing right now. I am thinking of you and I wish you peace.

Love, Rhonda

Rhonda Ruminated at 1:56 PM | Permalink |

20 Ruminations:

  • At 4:32 PM, Blogger Mel

    I don't get paralyzed about cards, but I can see how it would have affected you in that way.
    I tend, if I can't find an appropriate sentiment pre-written on a greeting card, to purchase a blank card and fill it with what I want to say.
    I am so sad that things have been so hard for you with your parents, Rhonda. All I can say is - nothing that would make sense, I guess. So I'll just send you a 'hug'.

  • At 12:43 AM, Blogger Lisa

    I have the same experience with picking out cards. It has always been that way for me. Im so sorry you had to send that card and under the circumstances that you did. Its just not right. Not the way it should be between a mother and daughter. I also know that some day I could be picking out and sending something similar to my biological mother. It just makes me so sad.


  • At 4:17 AM, Blogger Kim Ayres

    I can barely remember any time I saw a card with a message that didn't make me want to gag anyway, so we pretty much always send blank cards with our own messages.

    But this piece isn't about looking for a solution, I know that. It's about the triggering of ongoing deeply emotional difficulties. What I want to do is give you hug, which is tricky from this distance, so I automatically try and offer solutions instead.

    As always, your posts touch me deeply.

  • At 6:19 PM, Blogger Charlie

    I cannot say anything other than you bring tears to my eyes.

  • At 8:31 AM, Blogger Attila The Mom

    I'm so sorry. :-(

  • At 12:50 PM, Blogger Jennifer McK

    I, too, have a difficult time with the card isle. I reject them as "Too sappy." "Total lies". "Too short". "Too secular" and it takes forever to find the right card for mom.
    The only time I don't feel this way is when I'm getting cards for my friend, Michelle. Then, I get to spend that agonizing hour laughing my butt off since she likes the snarky cards.
    I like to combine buying cards for her and my mother at the same time so that the hour isn't so painful.
    Hugs to you. I'll keep you in my thoughts.

  • At 2:35 AM, Blogger elizabeth


    I can imagine how hard it was to find the right card. Ugh. Thinking of you.

  • At 4:35 PM, Blogger Sven

    Not surprisingly, I think you made a wise choice.

    P.S. Aisle.

  • At 9:17 PM, Anonymous quinn

    HI Rhonda...

    The whole buying a card with the "heartfelt" words inside was always a sore spot for me. I was never able to do it properly and I used to detest finally having to give in and purchase a card that said all these words of love and caring and all things foreign to me used to make me sick to my stomach, but that were what was EXPECTED to be given.

    Now as an adult, I rarely if ever give a card to anyone, my children and husband included. ( I know its sad)..If I want to give a card it will be a home made card to them that says what I can feel or what I want them to know....but it is rare.

    I have not forced myself to do the card thing for my A-mom for years and every year on every occassion she has made a point of mentioning that I have not...and I tell her I don't buy cards for anyone EVER and yet she does not believe me and even more sad..she has never enquired as to why not..although I honestly don't know if I would be brave enough to say ..why not..

    I know your feelings completely.

  • At 11:22 AM, Anonymous mia

    We really do need our own section don't we?

    I keep looking for the "You Are A Complete Nut Job But I Love You All the Same" section.

    Or that special card that says; "Thinking of you living in the closet.....How's that working out for ya?" which I would send with a pine scented air freshener or something.

    No luck with that yet.


  • At 6:55 AM, Blogger Internet Safety Queen

    Hi. Just found your site and wanted to say hi.

    First of all, we are neighbors. Western Illinois, and I used to live in St Louis back in the day!!

    And from one single mom with teenagers, to another, GOOD LUCK!!! :)


  • At 5:56 PM, Blogger Rhonda

    Mel, thanks for the hugs. I am a blank card fan too.

    Lisa, I'm so glad you're here finally!

    Kim, thank you. Having seen your photoshop cards on your blog, I'd rather receive one of those as opposed to Hallmark ;o) And thanks, too, for the sentiments.

    Charlie, tears are always my favorite reviews.

    Atilla, thank you.

    Jennifer, I think probably everyone has trouble picking the perfect card because they usually are so corny or unfitting. I like your approach though!

    Elizabeth, thank you. It's always a blessing to know you're here.

    Sven, thanks. And geez, I never get Aisle right. I think I'm going to hire you as my editor.

    Quinn, like you, I rarely, if ever, send a card. Even when I know I should send a thank you card or some such, I just shy away from doing so. Sounds like your amom and mine have something not so good in common.

    Mia, maybe we should start a business, eh?

    Jacer, Welcome to my world. Hope you stick around!

  • At 4:25 PM, Blogger Andie D.

    I sent my bmom a mother's day card last year after agonizing about the selection for far, far too long.

    I just couldn't face it this year, so I sent nothing.

    I can only imagine what you are going through. This post really touched me.


  • At 8:06 AM, Blogger Pendullum

    I am wishing you peace...
    and sending it with great love...
    Thinking of you...

  • At 3:17 PM, Blogger Nikki

    Thinking of you Rhonda

  • At 6:20 PM, Blogger Julie

    I've had the same trouble with cards all my life. I don't envy you this task, it must have been excruciating. My own natural mother let me off the hook and died unexpectedly.

  • At 1:10 AM, Blogger Possum

    Yeah - I hate picking cards.
    So very sad Rhonda.
    Thinking of you.

  • At 9:38 PM, Blogger clew

    Rhonda -

    For this and the post below too ... *HUGS*

    I'm so glad to know you :)


  • At 9:21 PM, Blogger kim

    just stopped by to check on you :) i miss ya

  • At 4:08 PM, Blogger Dawn

    Hi Rhonda,
    I have a similar situation happening to me as of now and I wanted to let you know that your words touched my heart and gave me the encouragement that I needed...Thank You! Like you my mother is dying, and we haven't spoken for years(I was raised by my wonderful Grandparents, both gone now)My mother has never known the special meaning of the word "mother" and I learned a long time ago to forgive her for that. I found out about her illness, same as you, through a third party- who hasn't spoken to her in months..Questions flooded my head: Is she alive, do I want to speak to her, what do I say? My bff sent 2 of your "posts" to me via email and I don't know who to Thank first! I am greatly touched by your story and again thank you.
    Dawn, 28, mn


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