When I was a little girl, I started a postcard collection. Postcards were then—and are now—a low cost memento of a trip (and a low stakes investment for a parent to make on a souvenir). I don’t remember how old I was when I started accumulating these paper treasures, nor can I identify the first postcard that found its way into the old shoebox that housed the collection. As any collector knows, there is often no clear rhyme or reason behind why something appeals to us. It sometimes requires years of study for a true collector able to identify trends and collecting tendencies. After a half of a century of amassing them, I have begun to understand that the postcards were my first connections to travel and to experiencing the world.
I can look through the shoebox and clearly see that early postcards reflected my grandparents’ trips to Florida—to visit a rogue branch of our family that left north Alabama for parts unknown. The photos were of places and attractions that felt exotic to a child. Finally, I made my first trip to the Florida panhandle and Panama City—what today we call the “Redneck Rivera”—when I was 5 years old. After an overnight drive with my mother and a group of her friends, I awoke as we neared our destination and declared, “It snowed!” because the beaches were so white. A collection of 1960s style post cards document that trip: Goofy Golf and images of white sand and turquoise blue waters.
A few years later, my cousins moved to Texas and my grandparents’ adventures expanded. I received postcards from Hot Springs, Arkansas, the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Memorial in Dallas, Texas, and all the stops in between. My Aunt Elaine took a job as a teacher with the Armed Forces and set off for the Azores, and my collection grew further. I remember clearly sitting down across from her with a spinning globe between us, searching for the tiny archipelago of islands off the coast of Portugal. From there Elaine began to send a series of postcards that documented every stop of her travels. As my collection continued to multiply, friends and family members would purchase postcards for me from every place they went. Sent and delivered from around the world, these small rectangles of paper most likely created in me a need to travel and see as much as I could in my life.
And I did leave home and travel. I traveled around the world (or at least a sizable part of it). And I collected postcards and carried a camera, and took pictures of my travels, and printed those photos out to postcard size to add to my postcard box.
The postcard and photo collection now takes up several shoeboxes. Most of the cards collected were never mailed, but purchased or hand delivered from afar and contain no note. I imagine that I will one day write them all and send them to long lost friends and loved ones. Or I dream of writing short stories in the vein of Italo Calvino, each story inspired by a single image, a remnant of a travel once taken. In my imagination, the images and their stories intersect like The Castle of Crossed Destinies or like traversing characters from Isak Dinesen’s Winter’s Tales.
Maggie and I are embarking on a train trip (more of that coming soon) in the next weeks. And we plan to send postcards from our adventures. Who knows what stories we will create to write on the backs? Look for information on our upcoming events at Heath Ceramics and the Boiler Room, our Amtrak adventure, and more…