When visiting museums, national parks, historic houses, Civil War battlefields, and cities around the world, I can’t seem to leave gift shops and newsstands without acquiring postcard reminders of all that I have seen. Years ago, before the Internet, I was really good about mailing them to friends and family. I know this because my mother saved all of the cards I mailed to her and Dad, carefully placing them in a photo album because she knew that someday I would want to relive my travels. As I page through images of trips ranging from Idaho and Boston to China and South Africa, I glimpse my younger self, a woman filled with a sense of wonder and adventure. Words spill all over the page in my attempt to describe every site seen and food consumed, yet I wonder what stories remain untold. After all, I was writing to my parents, and postcards are such public forms of communication.
Now, years later, I find that I have accumulated hundreds of unsent cards. Some evoke memories of the time I lived in Santa Monica or visited Hawaii while others document experiences I no longer recall, for example, a 1975 trip across the U.S. that took me through Dresbach Falls, Minnesota. My stash of postcards captures a time in my life when I was fascinated by images of women reading, library buildings, and larger-than-life figures statues dotting the rural landscape. Perhaps of postcards of Hayward, Wisconsin’s giant muskie or a car atop a silo can still fill recipients with a desire to see such objects for themselves. By the way, I once stood in the mouth of this fish!
People seem to be sending fewer and few postcards these days. Sure, you can still find them for sale in museum gift shops and some friends of a certain age (one that includes grey hair) still mail the occasional card, but for most people it’s much easier and cheaper to snap a photo with your I-phone and text or post it online. id you know that postcard stamps now cost 34 cents!
Call me a Luddite, but I still love the act of writing and sending postcards. Fortunately, I have so many unsent cards in my stash that it’s like having my own museum shop, albeit an eclectic one. At first it seemed a bit strange sending cards from a trip taken 20 or 30 years ago, but then I decided that most people would find it refreshing to receive a piece of real mail amidst the junk that fills our boxes these days. I’m calling it the “Postcard Project.” Most mornings of the week I sit down after breakfast and paw through my cards until an image calls to me, saying “I am just the perfect card for so-and-so.”
If you open your mailbox one day and find a picture of a giant muskie or of the largest boar at the Indiana State Fair, I hope it makes your day! And maybe, just maybe, you’ll want to play it forward, sending postcards to your friends and family for no reason at all, other than you are thinking of them.