The things I carried

post cards

I collect post cards. It’s not particularly original, but collecting souvenirs can hardly be considered trailblazing.

There’s not a single quality I look for in a post card. Sometimes I genuinely like the photo, sometimes the shape. Sometimes a card is so quaint or corny that I have to put down the 75¢. Gaudy colors, lame borders, terrible fonts, bad photo manipulation. Some post cards are a designer’s nightmare. That doesn’t mean I don’t like them.

This habit took hold before I could notice, before I could stop it. (Post cards are fortunately cheaper than most habits.)

The first time I received a card I was still a kid. My grandparents used to send me cards from various states they traveled to for missions trips. Many times it was Wounded Knee, South Dakota. These cards usually featured animals, a sampler of the state’s top critters. The post cards comprised maybe eight different pictures fading into each other at the edge. Here’s a bison. Here’s a prairie dog. Here’s a fox. You get the picture.

All the cards remind me of places I’ve been to or through, no matter how exotic or not. Iowa, Nebraska, London, Paris, Québec, Oregon, Massachusetts, Washington, Maine, Idaho.

I don’t write anything on them, and the fact that anyone could read the card’s message always felt unsettling. But utility isn’t really important. The object could be anything I guess. My fiancée buys shot glasses, but never anything to pour in them. It’s all about the places, the journey. To me, it’s all about the people you travel with and the memories you make.

When I see the cheesy silhouettes of two bucks on a Nebraska card, it reminds me of driving home alone from Washington, sleeping in my van in negative degree temperatures. When I see double-decker buses in London, I remember walking the streets with Stephanie, meeting up with a friend who was studying abroad at the time, and sipping Strongbow.

I remember good trips and bad ones, because no matter how I broke I am,while driving or flying or hitchhiking somewhere, I can always spare 75¢ for the memory.

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