My grandmother was a treasure hunter. In bargain basements and estate sales and junk shops - especially junk shops - she poked and prodded and unearthed endless treasures. The entire collected works of Alvin & the Chipmunks on vinyl. Gilligan and The Skipper in rubber relief. A Pillsbury Dough family (including The Boy), surely a collector's item. To someone. Somewhere. Certainly to her 6 year old granddaughter, the recipient of so many of these treasures.
Indeed it was me she immediately thought of when she stumbled across a battered and worn wooden case - it's rope handle hanging by a thread, the wood so thin it was hardly more than cardboard, the edges trimmed in barn red material that may have once passed for leather. A wobbly brass latch tenuously held it all together and when she opened it she saw possibilities. When I opened it, I saw stamps. Thousands of stamps, some never used, some used and yellowed and peeling away from a square of envelope, a corner torn away from a letter - from and to whom was a mystery. A tattered booklet sat atop the pile - The Young Person's Guide to Collecting Stamps.
When the case came to me in 1978, the guide was already 30 or more years old, and some of the stamps decidedly older than that. I remember the feel of those dry used stamps, the musty smell of old things. Buried beneath the stamps near the bottom of the case, tenderly tied with a faded ribbon, was a stack of postcards. I don't know if my grandmother knew the postcards were mixed in with the stamps, but I'm sure that if she did, she would have recognized them - This! This is the real treasure.
They were all written in the same spidery hand of a woman of my grandmother's generation, and the message, while differing in specifics, was essentially the same - Having a great time. Wish you were here. The St. Louis Arch, the Mississippi River, the Roy Rogers Museum, scenic Joplin, Missouri - a travelogue of the Midwest, sent to children and grandchildren, signed in the same way - Love, Faye.
Every time I find myself traveling, in a place near or far, I think of those postcards. I think of my fascination with those places as a child, and with Faye, marveling at how very cosmopolitan she was. Scenic Joplin, Missouri! How is that we have moved away from a something so small, yet so personal, a note to let our loved ones know that we are seeing something spectacular, and wishing they were with us.
As I sat on the beach this afternoon, holding my sleeping child, watching the others play in the sand, listening to the waves and being completely and totally at ease, I thought of you. This is my digital postcard to you, and though it is written in a much different way than those postcards from Faye, the sentiment is the same.
Having a great time. Wish you were here.
2 weeks ago