Heaven help us!
The death of a friend's parent led to a trip to Norman's Hallmark in Fanwood to buy a sympathy card, and to chagrin over what's become of them.
I've been buying cards for special occasions at this shop for over thirty years -- since before it was even Irma's Bag. The shop has changed over the years, with less space devoted to giftwrap and more to tchotchkes. On this trip, I even noticed a mannequin offering clothing items.
The Hallmark greeting cards section has become enormous, even as Americans are mailing fewer items each year. And Hallmark, with an exquisitely tuned ear for marketing, has created several smaller distinctive lines offering edgy alternatives to the more traditional offerings.
But in sympathy cards, I prefer a very simple and straightforward card with plenty of space for me to write a personal note.
To my surprise, though there were over a hundred cards to choose from, there wasn't a single simple card. Everything was awash in pastel swoops and bunches of flowers. And the insides were filled with overlong treacly sentiments.
Since Hallmark wouldn't offer all this stuff if it weren't making money by doing so, the question came to my mind whether we substitute this stuff for a real expression of our sympathy and connection to those who have suffered a loss because we are just too busy, afraid to look the inevitable in the eye, or because we don't know how to express ourselves any more.
Or perhaps all three?
In any event, it's a sad state for sympathy cards.
-- Dan Damon [follow]