Thursday, August 18, 2011

Writing Postcards

This summer has revived the art of writing letters and postcards for me. While my daughter was at camp, the only way to communicate with her was to write her old-fashioned letters. So I did. And she wrote back.

Our road trip had me pick up my old love for writing postcards, sending greetings to friends and family as I thought about them on our vacation. I especially thought about my sister, not only because this road trip retraced, to some degree, the one she and I had taken many years ago but also because on the second day of our trip I found out that she'd suffered a mountaineering accident and was in a hospital in the Italian Alps. While all her wounds and breaks are expected to heal, her recovery will take a long time, and so I started sending her daily postcards. Some to remind her of places we'd been together, some to introduce her to new sites and vistas, and all to say "Get well soon."

We did talk on the phone, too, but not that frequently as the time difference made that difficult. But she told me that the stream of almost daily postcards cheered her up. And it gave me a small way to do something for her and also include her in my experience.

Writing postcards is an old tradition in our family. On mutual vacations, she and I would sit at a café table, often on the last day of the trip, to write a stack of postcards. Sometimes my hand would ache, but would tease her that it took her much longer than it took me to get through the stack.

Funny enough, not only I was writing postcards, my daughter was too, sending greetings to her friends who had remained at camp. Together, our daily challenge was to find an actual mailbox. It seems that in many rural towns you can only find them at the post office. We got good at finding post offices.

The habit of writing postcards seems to not yet be extinct as the gift shops at each destination, be it a national park or a museum, offered at least one caroussel of postcards. Perhaps people don't necessarily send them anywhere but simply collect them. I do that, too, as I sometimes feel a postcard captures a view better than I could. So there my daughter and I were, looking through the offerings to find postcards with views we liked, just like my sister and I used to do, to either send them on or keep them for ourselves and the scrapbook we hopefully will put together some day. A family tradition lives on.


  1. Reading your post gave me the urge to take up the art of postcards and letter writing again. There's something so personal about it. I know how special it feels to get an "I was thinking about you..." card in the mail (more so than email I think). Thanks for reminding me about an old tradition that I used to love.

  2. I love this post! My mother had a collection of postcards she collected her whole life long that she passed along to my son.... that box (giant sized shoe box) is crammed full of many many years of postcards. I love reading through them (some are hers, some she sent to us, some others sent to her and some are blank) and even thought of writing a blog post about them.... it's a lovely family tradition, I agree. I love the part where your daughter and you would make it your day's challenge to find a mailbox -- that's the kind of thing I'd do with my daughter too & I can so relate. Sweet post!

  3. Ich liebe Postkarten, auf denen richtig was draufsteht. Also Deine! Beim Durchstoebern alter Biefbuendel bin ich auf Weihnachtskarten gestossen, wo nur der obligatorische "Frohe Weihnachten"-Satz drin steht. Und erst dachte ich: bloed, so ein bla, bla. Aber selbst die sagen zwischen den Zeilen: Hey, ich hab an dich gedacht, ich hab eine schoene Karte fuer dich ausgesucht, hoffentlich geht es dir gut, ich hab dich nicht vergessen und "Schoene Weihnachten". Besonders schoen finde ich, dass du eine Gemeinsamkeit mit deiner Tochter entwickelst, eine Insel der Eintracht ...

  4. Natalie - yes, there is something deeply personal about writing actual letter and postcards, especially in this day and age of electronic communication.

    Julia - thanks for sharing the story of your mother's box of postcards. The neat thing is that what might seem rather commonplace now might be a treasure or a view that won't even exist lateron.

    Barbara - eben, auch eine eigentlich langweile Grusskarte hat ja schon etwas Muehe gekostet, das Aussuchen, das Adressieren, die kleine Notiz, und das In-den-Briefkasten-Werfen - alle das ist ja schon eine Aufmerksamkeit ueber die man sich nur freuen kann. Witzigerweise hat meine Tochter sogar hartnaeckiger nach Briefkaesten gesucht als ich!

  5. How in the world did I miss this post???? Oh my!! (must have been busy with the whole wedding nonsense at the time)

    Postcards are my absolute favorite thing- to send and receive. I also have found (in my search of ancestry) that postcards leave a road map to where we have been and what we have done. I love reading the scribbles on the back and putting the pieces of a puzzle together about what the sender or receiver might have been doing at the time the postcard was sent.

    Excellent post- thank you for linking to it so I didn't miss it altogether!!