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.