Originally published on Selva Beat.
When I was ten, my grandmother started working at a Hallmark Gift Store housed in one of the many strip malls in our suburban town. Swayed by a store discount, she began buying a now legendary amount of branded paraphernalia and paper goods. As an artistic kid, Hallmark’s product placement in my life had the desired effect — I was impressed by (and maybe a little jealous of) the merch I began receiving for birthdays and holidays. The glitter! The vague, corny sentiments! I loved it all. But, being a child, I did not have access to that sweet discount (or money in general) to buy said cards. I did, however, have a serious collection of art supplies and a DIY spirit. I soon launched my own brand of competing “Lizmark” cards — an entrepreneurial failure but a sentimental success — that family members still preserve alongside old photos and ticket stubs.
My family was tight at that time in my life. We lived next door to my great-grandparents and a block away from my mother’s parents, in addition to other family members nearby. The cards I made embellished the time we were already spending together, rather than being an indirect form of communication. Now that we don’t all live so close together, maintaining bonds via communication is more complicated than a well-designed Lizmark card.