Today I read a news story about a comedian whose death was announced by his son on Twitter.
Rather than Twitter, I would like my death announced by postcard.
I learned the art of postcard writing from my mum, who began sending pictured cards to her mother when we moved to Iran in the 1960s.
My grandmother kept her stash in a binder, with images that ranged from Norte Dame in Paris to the pyramid of Giza in Cairo.
It made sense: my parents lived overseas for three decades, and sending postcards let my mum keep in touch with her large, extended family.
Once my mum and I took a car trip to Edinburgh on a whim when I was visiting their London home during a break from college.
We took off on a jaunt without reservations, photographed the countryside and stayed in pubs in Wales and Scotland.
We’d pull off the road for lunch at a pub, and eat shepherd’s pie or cheese sandwiches, and secure a room before exploring the town.
Villages had cobblestone streets lined by tiny shops: tobacconist, ironmonger, and sweet shops.
I liked the sweet shops because you could find peppermint candies with a range of heat, from mild to militant.
And my mother would find a store that sold postcards.
We’d head back to the pub for a gin and tonic, and write friends and family, while the locals chatted us up.
Naturally I picked up the habit in my own travels.
Finding postcards is easy in a place like Rome or New York, where tourist shops tempt visitors with key-chains and tchotchkes that memorialize their travels.
But finding stamps requires patience and a sense of humor.
In Barcelona my husband had a lovely chat with a vendor after we found a post office tucked away in a dim corner of a maze of shops.
We don’t speak Castilian but my husband carried on—in Spanish—describing our awe of the breathtaking buildings and grounds created by Antoni Gaudí.
But when I tried to buy stamps at a post office in Morocco the postal worker shouted at me and shooed me off the premises.
I am still perfecting the art of writing postcards.
In one college course I taught on writing, I asked students to write across platforms and media—from scripting a wedding toast to crafting a post card.
One of the students, who is closer to my age than to the co-eds, told me she loved the postcard assignment, and we have been friends ever since.
Turns out my friend, an elegant writer herself, adores travel, reading and writing.
Although we live in different cities, we send each other postcards from our journeys.
Travel is now on the back-burner because the pandemic keeps my husband and I tucked at home.
But travel hasn’t stopped me from sending postcards.
I pulled together a stash of picture-postcards of Oregon from the local market, and tried painting a few with watercolors.
Friends and family heard about our spring-time weather from our back porch.
I decamped outside, pen poised, and conjured an image of the person—channeling a voice or a gesture.
And then I’d write a sentence or two, just to that person, just in that moment.
I felt connected.
So when I join my relatives in heaven, I’d rather you get a postcard than a Tweet.
8 June 2020
With acknowledgement and gratitude to the Native peoples on whose land I live, write and teach: the Multnomah, the Clackamas, and the denizens of all Indigenous nations
~ For all my postcard pals ~