Tag Archives: memories

Way back Wednesday: Remembering the Lost Art of the Postcard

Editor’s Note: I wrote this column on the lost art of sending postcards back in March 2013. During the current climate of COVID-19, as well as the attempt by some to disrupt the United States Postal Service’s mission to ensure that, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” it seems appropriate to reflect on the connection people can feel through the mail.

It is also important to remember the old AT&T telephone jingle to “Reach out, reach out and touch someone,” during this time of COVID-19 to let people know you are thinking about them.

Of course, in the current COVID-19 climate, any reaching out should be done from a safe social distance. In the meantime, please enjoy this column as part of our occasional Way Back Wednesday feature.

In this age of instant messaging, e-mail, Twitter, and other ways to communicate at the speed of light, it may come as a shock to some of the younger readers that there was once a time when correspondence was not handled as quickly.

Before the days of Facebook, it was not possible to post a status while on vacation to all of your friends to let them know that you were “Having a great time exploring the world’s largest ball of twine.”

Instead, when you were at that ball of twine, and you wanted to let your friends know how much fun it was before seeing them again in person, you had to buy a postcard and actually place it in something called a mailbox. Your friends would than receive the postcard, and your thoughts on the ball of twine in a few days.

Yes, I know mailboxes still exist, and based on what comes in mine they tend to be a conduit for junk mail and bills alone.

As such I now only check my mail a couple times a month; since there really isn’t anything worth reading that would require me to check it any more frequently.

Once upon a time mailboxes served as a window to communicate with the world. Today, mine mostly serves as a place for junk mail and bills.
Photo R. Anderson

I have made a career out of writing. I was able to made the transition from writing for print publications, to writing for electronic platforms.

For the most part, writing is writing. There will always be a need for clear content to be communicated regardless of the changing platforms as technology moves forward.

While I know that the ways people communicate has changed, sometimes I find myself feeling a bit of nostalgia for the written word and the simple act of receiving a post card through the mail.

Part of this nostalgia was the result of looking through my postcard collection the other day to help remember the name of somewhere that I went on vacation many years ago.

I ended up finding that postcard and my memory was jogged. Looking through the box, other memories were set free as well.

Many of the postcards in my collection were sent to other family members before I was born and were just passed down to me; but several are actually addressed to me. One particular series of cards was the result of a chance encounter on an airplane.

When I was in third grade, my mom and I were on a flight from Washington D.C. to Orlando, FL. There was an older gentleman in the row with us (of course when I was that age everyone was older, so my memory of how old he really was may be warped).

As it was a relatively long flight, we ended up making conversation. Over the course of the conversation, he mentioned that he did a lot of traveling as part of his work with the Army.

I do not recall the whole scenario of how it occurred, but addresses were exchanged and he mentioned that he would write me from his travels.

The postcards did not always include a message but this is typical of the type of message when they did.

In this more jaded world that we find ourselves in now, the chances of a stranger getting the address of a young child under the guise of sending correspondence would probably be less likely to occur.

I for one have become way more suspicious of people’s intentions the older I get.

While it is certainly good to be skeptical, and careful of one’s surroundings, and those that enter them, I sometimes wish that I could see the world through younger me’s eyes when the world was a far less scary place. Back then, the only things I needed to worry about were which pair of pajamas to wear, and how many days until I could ride my bike to the 7-Eleven to check out the latest comic books, or buy a pack of baseball cards.

A few weeks after returning home, I got my first postcard from the man on the plane. The postcards continued for several years, and always included a short note about the destination included on the front.

One of the postcards my pen pal from the plane sent me.

The cards stopped one day, which could have been the result of many factors including the forwarding address feature no longer working, or perhaps the man behind them was no longer able to send the cards for whatever reason.

While I do not remember his name, I do remember the simple act of sharing postcards with a wide-eyed child and the effect that had and continues to have. I have no way of knowing if that man on the plane is even still with us.

If he is, I hope that he is well and is still able to take those wonderful trips that sparked my imagination so many years ago.

But those postcards, as well as the others I received from friends and family, helped me see parts of the world that were harder to see in the pre-internet days and certainly helped nurture my love of traveling.

Some 30 years later I still fondly recall the postcards from my pen pal. Tweets and e-mails will not hold up as well through the decades I imagine.

Today, thanks to the internet, if I want to see a picture of something I need only type it into a search bar and before long I will have more pictures to look at than I could ever hope for.

The Internet has opened the world up to us but in some ways it has also made us more alone than ever before.

I often think about other chance encounters and people who come into our lives for a brief moment and the impact that they have on us. Had my mom and I been seated in any other row on that airplane, I would not have received the postcards.

When I was in Journalism School, one semester my professor assigned the class a project to go to the food court at the mall and observe people. The point behind the assignment was to make note of the various interactions of people coming and going in order to imagine various scenarios as to what brought them there. To this day, I still enjoy people watching.

The next week, the same professor assigned us to go back to the same food court and find a stranger to interview. The point of the exercise being that everyone of us has a story to tell. The trick is to know the right questions to ask to get the ball rolling.

While the memory of the man on the plane will probably not make me any less cautious than I am, since the world today is so much different than it was all those decades ago it is still a nice memory and shows that we all do have stories to tell. The key is to just be open to hear them.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I am going to find a food court and see if my interview skills are still as sharp as they once were.

Copyright 2020 R Anderson

Joy Even in Times of Loss

As the song sung by Charlie Brown and his friends goes, Christmas time is here. Or at least it will be here tomorrow.

And while there is certainly happiness and cheer, as well as snowflakes in the air in certain parts of the world during Christmas time, for many people this marks the first Christmas without a loved one.

This is the position that I find myself in following the death of my Grandmother in November.

While I knew that my Grandmother was gone, I was reminded again last Sunday that this would be the first Christmas without her when I was tidying up my desk and came across a pile of Christmas cards from last year. Among the cards in the pile was one from my Grandmother.

I recently found the last Christmas card my Grandmother sent me which served as a reminder to find joy even in times of loss. Photo R. Anderson
I recently found the last Christmas card my Grandmother sent me which served as a reminder to find joy even in times of loss.
Photo R. Anderson

While more and more people are choosing electronic ways to send Christmas greetings, my Grandmother, who never owned a computer, never sent a Christmas tweet, nor posted anything other than framed pictures on her “wall,” always sent a traditional Christmas card with the help of the United States Postal Service.

As I was reading the card from last year I realized that for the first time since I could remember there would not be any more Christmas cards from her.

While I was saddened by this thought at first, I looked at the card again and saw two doves and the word joy on it.

The stack of cards has been on my desk for nearly a year but by going through them this past weekend I was reminded from beyond the grave to have joy for the season despite the feeling of loss.

While I was thinking about my Grandmother Sunday, I remembered that I was to attend my final holiday concert of the season that evening and needed to decide what I would wear.

As part of my preparations for being a pall bearer at my Grandmother’s funeral I bought a new suit jacket since I had increased in circumference since the last time I wore a suit.

The black suit jacket I found was both stylish and befitting my circumference to allow me to join my cousins in our official duties at the funeral.

Since returning from the funeral in November my suit jacket has sat neglected and alone in a dark closet devoid of purpose aside from striking up conversations with the other jackets that are also hanging in there.

Since returning from the funeral in November my suit jacket has sat neglected and alone in a dark closet devoid of purpose aside from striking up conversations with the other jackets that are also hanging in there.
Since returning from the funeral in November my suit jacket has sat neglected and alone in a dark closet devoid of purpose aside from striking up conversations with the other jackets that are also hanging in there. Photo R. Anderson

Now I know that my suit jacket is just thread and material so any anthropomorphic tendencies to believe that it has feelings of its own would be futile. Instead, it was me who needed to have a better memory of wearing the suit beyond my Grandmother’s funeral.

So I decided that I would wear the suit to put a bow on my final holiday concert of the season so to speak and in a way bring my Grandmother along in spirit as well.

As I was driving to the concert in my spiffy suit and tie I realized that I was hungry and should probably eat something before the concert.

I decided to go to Dairy Queen, which as coincidence would have it was a favorite of my Grandmother’s, and upon walking through the door I heard a small child say to his parents, “Wow, he sure got dressed up to get ice cream.”

The joke was on the child though since I did not in fact order ice cream and had a steak finger basket instead. But yes I was probably a little overdressed for the Dairy Queen.

As it turned out I may have been slightly overdressed for the concert as well as I was one of the few people wearing a suit who was not part of the performance, but it still felt nice to dress up.

I am glad that I decided to wear the suit to the concert to add a new memory that did not involve a funeral and carrying my Grandmother’s casket.

Beyond the Christmas card encouraging me to approach the season with joy, I will continue to remember my Grandmother in many other ways in the coming years including when I watch her beloved Atlanta Braves play or whenever I am shelling pecans. I am blessed to have decades of memories of my Grandmother to call upon to help through any sad times that may arise.

Memories are certainly powerful things to be cherished. Or as Paul Simon would say, “preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go hang my stocking by the chimney with care. Merry Christmas to one and all.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson