I love post cards.
However, my Grandmother (Oma Scherer) loved postcards even more.
She could not walk by a rack of postcards without picking out at least half a dozen.
And almost every day of her long life, she seemed to find a rack of postcards somehow, somewhere.
The vision of her with keen determination walking up to a cash register with a handful of a treasure trove of postcards will always stay with me.
I never really had any idea how many of them she had collected…
Until I inherited them.
Several thousand would be a reasonable approximation.
From all over the world.
My grandmother was always a very busy and loving woman.
I didn’t get to see her often, as she and my grandfather lived in Germany where he served as a Baptist minister.
During her extended stays while visiting our house, she was helpful with the cooking and ironing. She was also very good at sniffing out cluttered drawers or closets.
It was also a common scene to see her sitting at a kitchen table, writing amongst stacks of stationary, envelopes and rolls of stamps.
I remember when I was about six years old I walked up to her and ask:
“What are you doing?” as I came over to take a look at what she was up to.
“I’m writing a letter,” she’d reply.
Indeed she was. Looking to the top of the letter in her hand, I read the following word:
“Greetings…” which was how she began each of her letters.
Next to this word she would place lots of stickers showing floral bouquets. In those days they were not the self stick kind of stickers.
You had to lick the back of them first. I can still remember there gluey tang. She had tons of them.
“To who are you writing a letter?” I then asked her.
“Someone who is in the hospital,” she’d say.
Content with her reply, I leave her to her writing and go and play for a bit.
Coming back a half-hour later, I’d still find her writing.
“Is that the same letter?” I inquired.
“No this is another one.”
“To who?” I was a very nosey child.
“Is this friend in the hospital too?”
Without looking up and without breaking stride with her pen she replied:
“No, this friend who lives alone.”
And so, this would go on all afternoon. By the time she was done, there was a stack of sealed envelopes addressed to points all over the world. Some were for overseas, some were going to the United States. I could not help but notice that the envelopes also abundantly well stickered.
It was an enigma of sorts to me, a little girl, as to why she spent hours each day writing all those letters when there were other fun things to do like watch TV or play outside or in my grandmother’s case, cleaning out and organizing a closet.
And of course there was the expense of it all, as she was forever purchasing more stationary, more stamps, and more booklets of those beautiful little flowery books of stickers.
Then at last, I remember the day when I asked her:
“Do you write letters to everybody?”
“No” she answered.
“Then who do you write all these letters to?”
“I have a lot of friends who either live alone at home or are in a rest home. And then there are those who have to stay in the hospital for a very long time.”
Still not satisfied I decided to press her further.
“But why do you have to write them all letters?”
My grandmother finally looked up from her writing and said to me:
“These are very lonely people and everyone deserves to get a letter from time to time. Letters bring memories of friendship and happiness.”
Then she said something to me that I will never forget ever.
“I write these people letters to prove that there is at least one person thinking of them so that they will not feel so lonely anymore.”
I never forgot that.
And so, in September 2005 almost a year after my Grandmother passed away, I was visiting Mother when she handed me over a dozen very large and very full albums (or rather archives) filled with my Grandmother’s mementos and souvenirs that she had accumulated over the past eighty years.
These archives include reams of journals, pictures, postcards, letters, newspaper and magazine clippings, pressed botanicals, paper napkins, swizzle sticks, matchbooks, records of expenses, speeches, sermons, prayers, songs, stamps, travel brochures, receipts, ledgers, telegrams, sugar packets, ticket stubs, menus, programs, cut-outs, notes, personal diaries, travel logs, photo albums, paper placemats, food wrappers, coasters, travel papers, money, invitations, military documents, and more.
Some of the postcards were over one hundred years old.
The question was obviously what was I going to do with them?
I knew eventually I’d find a good use for them.
It was just a matter of time until I figured out what it would be.
And so I waited….
The answer came to me six years later.