Why I Collect Postcards

I think that I’ve been saying that I’ve been collecting postcards for a lot longer than I have, but I know that I at least started in the 9th grade, and I think that my first one was from my friend Katie.

Katie is a world traveller. She has been to Russia and Germany and Ireland and China (several times) and Argentina and France and South Dakota, which is far enough away to be mentioned here, along with a bunch of other places. Katie was one of those people who grew up fast. She knew how to look out for herself. She knew how to take a plane by herself and travel to another state alone when she was 14 or so. I looked up to her a lot, because she could do all of these things that I couldn’t do, and she knew how to act like an adult. I wished I could go to all the places she got to go to.

I give Katie the credit for my postcard collecting. She must have brought one back for me from South Dakota (her family is from there) one time, and then she was bringing me one every time she went somewhere on a trip, and I just started keeping them in a box under my bed.

When I was younger, my sister and I would get a certain amount of vacation time with my dad and we would go on these really long road trips to D.C. or New Hampshire or Maine. (One time we went to Canada.) Everytime we went I would buy all of these tchotchkes, like magnets and keychains and dolls, most of which ended up on the floor of my dad’s car. But I also bought postcards, and these also eventually ended up in the box under my bed with Katie’s.

I started asking my friends to bring me back postcards when they went away on trips. And they did. There was a girl in my 9th grade Earth Science class (also, coincidentally named Katie) who gave me a postcard from Cancun when she went over spring break. I’m not really friends with her anymore, but I still have her postcard from Cancun.

At first, what postcards provided for me was hope. Maybe one day I would be able to get away from Croton and travel to all of these pretty places, the most aesthetically pleasing parts of which were displayed on the postcards my friends would give me. I would know things and see things and be experienced and be an adult, like Katie. I could buy postcards and give them to my friends at home and show them where I had traveled and what I had seen, like they did for me.

This is definitely the more romantic (and expected) idea of what postcards mean to me. But my postcards eventually developed into something considerably more sentimental and meaningful to me.

For most of the postcards I have, I can name who gave it to me, or where I got it and under what circumstance. And those small memories are something that are so important to me. Collecting postcards for me is like collecting memories, and it’s how I remember the people in my life and the people that have been in my life.

These postcards don’t necessarily have to have writing on them, or even have to be sent to me. If a friend can remember me for a minute or two on their vacation, or wherever they are, to buy me a postcard and send it to me… That is just something that makes me really happy.

I have a postcard from my friend Melissa when she went to Canada for the first time and she was of legal drinking age (whoo hoo!). I have a postcard from my friend Viv who went to Costa Rica. I have multiple postcards from my friend Kaitlyn that she’s sent me from her colleges. I have a postcard from my friend Meryl that she bought me when walking around Beacon. I have a watercolor portrait postcard of me that a girl that I used to be friends with painted of me and gave to me for my birthday. I have postcards that I’ve bought at antique stores in Ithaca, that have been sent and discarded, with faded “Wish you were here!”s scrawled across them. I have all of the postcards I sent my boyfriend one year, that he gave back to me after we broke up. I have dozens of postcards from Katie. I have postcards that I’ve gotten from museums, trips to the city, small towns in Pennsylvania…

I have all of these tiny memories that are postcards, that I keep in a box and that I can sift through whenever I want. Some of them make me sad; some of them are from people I don’t talk to anymore, and it makes me think about what used to be there that isn’t now. Some of them make me happy, because they are reminders that my friends thought of me, or good times that I’ve had on road trips with my dad and my sister. If I’m feeling nostalgic, I can look through them all. And that, to me, is a beautiful thing.

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