Greetings and Salutations from Hallmark to Me to My Brother

Candles by Patrick O'Gara

Amanda Holstien

Today was not the first time that I cried in the greeting card aisle. The last time was when I was picking out a Father’s Day card. It can be an emotional thing to consciously bring your thoughts and feelings to the forefront of your mind in order to find the card that says it best. Even in their cliché poems or not-funny cartoons, I still find myself trying to find the card that says what I feel towards that person.

Today was probably the most depressing instance of buying a Christmas card. Unfortunately, they don’t make Christmas cards for brothers in jail, and the ones that say, “Don’t drink too much eggnog” or “A brother is a very special gift—sort of like socks” just don’t seem to suffice. Somehow, all of these Christmas cards indicate that the recipient will actually be celebrating Christmas. This makes them all the more depressing—to think of my brother, reading the card in his cell and it says, “Hang the tinsel, light the tree, but nothing says Christmas like family” (I just made that up, but you get the idea)—well, there’s no better way to un-Merry Christmas than to imagine such a scene.

The truth is, it’s not something you can be at peace with. I try to not be consciously aware of my brother’s incarceration, yet I know that nothing is more important than the truth and to ignore that truth will eat away at you. The trick, I suppose, is to think about it, allow myself to cry and be depressed, but then to not dwell on it and continue living my life. It’s easy to allow myself to feel guilty for not being a better sister (or whatever else), but, in reality, I am doing the best that I can, and there’s nothing that I can do that will bring him here for the holidays.
It’s not even that I care for family all that much. I have a few members of my family whom I am close to and actually like, but I’m not really big on “getting together for the holidays.” This has a lot to do with my past family experiences. There was always someone high or drunk, arguing, etc., and though my brother was that person some of the time, he is still my brother. And whether we would be together during the holidays (if he was out of jail) or if he would be high on Christmas is irrelevant.

My feelings are based on what I assume he is feeling. I am sad because I know that he is sad. I feel guilty because I know that he feels guilty. I feel lonely because I know that he feels lonely. How do you put that in a Christmas card? The closest thing that I found that said what I was feeling said, “At Christmas and always, never forget, you’re never forgotten.” The person who wrote this card must have had a family member in jail. It’s actually almost pathetic how I’m still crying about the message. It’s terribly sad, and terribly sweet and exactly what a little sister would say to her big brother.

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Archives: Spring 2010.

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