I won’t be sending my mother or grandmother Christmas cards this year, and it nearly made me cry at Target

OPINION: I’m still finding new ways in which the grief of losing my mother and grandmother manages to rear its head. 

holiday season
During the annual holiday season, families join together to fellowship, eat delicious foods and catch up on the year's events. But in the midst of it all, many are coping with loss, medical conditions and financial difficulties. (Photo: Allard Schager/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

One of my talents in life is my ability to pick out just the right card to send for any occasion. Despite there seeming to be a bazillion card options in greeting card racks, I have this uncanny ability to spend an inordinate amount of time poring over each and every card until I find the one that says exactly what I want to say. On rare occasions when I’m unable to find just the right card with just the right sentiment, I will buy a blank-on-the-inside card with a magnificent cover and get my poet on. Rest assured, if you ever get a card from me that says “Happy birthday!” on a day that is not your birthday, it is intentional and I spent a lot of time on that choice.

Christmas has always been a time when this particular skill comes in handy. As opposed to buying one of those box sets with 10 of the same card that says something supremely generic on the inside, I’ll usually spend upwards of $70 or $80 on individual cards. I’ve learned to streamline this process some; cards have gotten more and more expensive, especially when you pick cards that are bedazzled or have fancy artwork as I tend to do. Despite the cost and time it often takes me, I’ve often relished this opportunity for two specific people: my mother and my grandmother. 

I lost both of them this year. My mother passed away in February, and my grandmother passed in September. Of the various forms of grief I’ve experienced thus far this year, I hadn’t thought even a little bit about Christmas and how hard it was going to be celebrating this first Christmas, without my mother in particular. And the card-buying process was one I didn’t even realize how much I looked forward to until I went into Target and instinctually walked towards the card section and started looking for cards for my mother and grandmother until it dawned on me — I wouldn’t be sending them cards this year. 

I had to collect myself because I nearly lost it in the store. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. I stared at the cards for a few minutes, and instead of picking out cards for the people I still needed to get cards for, I left. I hadn’t prepared for that realization to hit me like a ton of bricks in that moment, and it hurt. Also, I didn’t want to start sobbing like a baby in the store without onlookers having context. This tradition that I enjoyed and that my mother and grandmother truly enjoyed is now gone. And while I, of course, still have other family members to send cards to, I’d established this specific tradition with them, to the point where my grandmother, especially, looked forward to both the card and whatever I’d write inside. She told me she loved how much care it seemed I put into getting her cards and the messages I’d write. My mother also noticed this and I always wanted to get her a card that I felt truly voiced a feeling I had for her. Even when she and I had difficult years, I still made sure to get her cards that expressed my love and appreciation for her. 

I haven’t been in the most joyous holiday mood this holiday season. I wonder if it’s because in the back of my mind this is my first one without my mother and grandmother. Those losses aren’t just emotional; it’s lineage. It’s family history and disruption of decades of tradition and specifics. I will do my best to keep my spirits up because of my kids but not being able to send a holiday card to them and knowing I won’t be receiving one is tough. Mother’s Day was very difficult this year, but I ended up on the phone with my grandmother for a while, and that helped. Now, I’m at a bit of a loss on that end. It is life, I know, but it is an adjustment nonetheless. 

I’ll try again tomorrow; I still have plenty of others for whom I can tremendously overpay for cards and now that I got that emotional response out of the way, I think I’ll be a bit better. Plus I have my list now. I suppose the firsts are always going to be the ones that get you; the first full year of birthdays, holidays and special occasions for which my mother isn’t around are still catching me by surprise. 

Who knew a trip to the store to buy cards could trip me up so badly?

Panama Jackson theGrio.com

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download it here.