July 19, 2007


We'd get postcards from all over the world: photos of crowded beaches, or people dancing in native costumes, or a narrow street of tilted old buildings and window boxes of bright flowers. Even the stamps on the postcards looked curious and exotic, colorful stamps we'd never seen before.

When I was little, Aunt Seashell and my grandmother took many wonderful trips, and they never failed to send postcards and bring back gifts. I still remember the castanets, and the little leather purses that folded shut in a clever way, and the dolls with colorful costumes. We treasured those trinkets, played with them and brought them to school, and kept the postcards in a drawer in my mother's desk.

Every trip Aunt Seashell took was followed by a slideshow. We'd all gather in the living room, with the grown-ups on the couch and the kids crowded together on the floor, and watch while the screen filled with images. Aunt Seashell and my grandmother would tell stories about the places they'd stayed, and the people they'd met. I loved these glimpses into the whole big world outside of Traintrack Village.

I've not kept the tradition. I don't send postcards or buy gifts when I travel: the best I do is put a photo on my blog when I can manage it. But Red-haired Sister, when she lived in Big City Like No Other, used to always bring home things for my kids and their cousins: exotic dress-up clothes, cool toys from Chinatown, and trinkets that can be bought only in a big urban area. Sometimes her suitcase would be so filled with gifts that she wouldn't have room for clothes and would just borrow clothes from her sisters during her visit. Perhaps it's not coincidence that the oldest two of her nieces, Red-haired Niece and Schoolteacher Niece, went to live in Big City Like No Other for grad school, and the next niece in line, my daughter, is thinking of doing the same.

Urban Sophisticate Sister, too, has continued the tradition. We crowded around her laptop recently to see photos from her trip to Country With an Active Volcano and Nice Beaches. Here's a picture of Blonde Niece trying on a necklace her aunt brought her from that country.



Nadine said...

I collect postcards so my family is always good about sending me some (or bringing them back blank- that works too).

heidi said...

I love the photo of your niece. She's so pretty.

Wayfarer Scientista said...

De-lurking...(J)oe, I love reading your blog, just so you know. And I am that traveling Aunt. I used to bring back gifts but they're a lot to haul around so now I just send postcards and put together a little newsy slideshow/letter when I get home. Lately though I end up writing the postcards on the plane back and posting them at the airport.

listie said...

I have a basket of postcards sitting on my bookshelf. It's rather empty now, having never been refilled after our move.

CollegeDaughter, too, is looking into grad school in Big City Like No Other.

Rana said...

I used to be much better about sending people postcards - and collecting them was something I was quite fond of when I was younger. When I was in college, I had an entire wall covered in cards and postcards. :)

I'm pleased to find someone else who enjoys slide shows. I've never understood why they, or family road trips, are always so maligned. Both things gave me great pleasure as a kid, and I enjoy them still.

A- said...

Was it really a screen? That's some real commitment to projection.

We used a sheet hung over the bookshelves my parents built against one wall. At my paternal grandparents', my uncle would show slides outside, thrown up on the wall of the house, slightly wavy against the stucco.

My favorite slide, always, was of my father and uncle on a road trip to Mexico, with a chicken crate tied to the back of the VW van. The chicken stopped laying eggs (probably sickened by exhaust and bumpy roads) and they let it loose somewhere in Arizona, to live or to die.

There's definitely something to be said for slides, how they can make images so large or so small. And back when long-distance travel was by nature more exotic, a large image was somehow just right. Aunt Seashell was great!

jo(e) said...

Wayfarer Scientista: Thanks for the compliment!

Listie: Hey, maybe our daughters will end up in grad school together. My daughter is applying to the College That Sounds Like a South American Country That We Often Connect With Cocaine.

Rana: I too have never figured out why people mock slide shows. I've always loved them.

a-: Yes, we had (and still have) a real screen. One thing I love about slideshows is that twenty people in the room are all looking at the same image as the person who went on the trip tells the story.

landismom said...

I agree, I love slideshows too. It's one of the things I like most about blogs like yours--photoblogging is a distant relative of the slideshow, I think.