Canadian Postal Cheer

August 24, 2016

I went to Canada and fell in love with their mail boxes. Colorful and peppy, those cheerful depositories made me want to stuff them with encouraging letters and bills with pretty stamps. It's funny how traveling makes the mundane aspects of daily life so much more interesting in new places. Grocery stores in other countries are far more interesting to me than grocery stores at home. And now it turns out that mail boxes are, too.

And here's another thing those postal boxes made me think about. When I was a kid, sending postcards was a big part of our travel ritual. Selecting the perfect card for each recipient. Using scratchy motel pens to describe trip highlights to grandparents and cousins. Words and drawings spilling over the edges. A satisfying little stack of paper greetings ready to be mailed. I was actually pretty good about sending postcards all the way into my 20s and 30s. And I assumed that this travel ritual would continue with my own children. It seemed like a good way to push them to write while also maintaining contact with family many miles away. But as with most good intentions, it never really happens. Don't get me wrong. We keep trying. Or at least I keep trying. After careful deliberation, post cards always get purchased with specific recipients in mind and I always think that this will finally be the trip that kick starts a new desire to write personal notes and letters on a more regular basis. Sometimes they actually get written, but they rarely get sent and the reality is that I have a large box of postcards documenting most of our trips from the past sixteen years of marriage (any ideas on what to do with those?). And I can't even remember the last time we received one. To be honest, it is surprising that post cards are even still made and sold.  So here's to hoping that those cheerful Canadian boxes prompt a personal letter writing resurgence and may postcards continue to exist. 

The Jiu Jiu said...

I still have most of the postcards various friends & family sent me over the years! I remember the on-the-road ritual of looking for just the right postcard for each planned recipient, then figuring out how to say all I wanted to say while still leaving room for the address & stamp... and then searching for a post office because I inevitably forgot to buy stamps. (And I was always struck by how much post offices in different countries are at once very different and yet also much the same.)

There's something very special about all those postcards with their hand-written narratives... In a world of increasingly ephemeral communications and memories that grow fuzzy over time, they are an actual physical piece of each trip, a tangible byte of one's own memory that act as a string to tie all those increasingly fuzzy memories into a solid, easily-accessed bundle of remembering.

The postcard ritual has slowly faded from my travels as well, and yet I can't help but think I _shouldn't_ let it go completely. My last time was a letter I wrote to my then-brand-new niece on our last day in China (our guide mailed it for me, and my sister has it tucked safely away at home for when the Pipsqueak is old enough to appreciate it), and yet I just came back from a week at the shore and didn't even *think* of sending a postcard to anyone because I was so busy texting photos. Thanks for the reminder of an important part of travel that's worth keeping alive!

Martha said...

I found it harder to find post cards in the US when we used to come back for a visit but not in Europe. For many of the years we were in Italy I used Postcardly to send 10 cards a month to friends and relatives that did not read my blog. Now back in the US it is a thrill to get to buy a set of notecards to send out usually two times a month. My orginial list of 10 has narrowed (old folks die you know) and when I remember that these folks don't compare notes so I don't have to write 6 different cards it very enjoyable to send out a few cards. I think our mailman is always pleased when he picks up my stack of cards. I am happy to see you blogging again and am catching up on you all.

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