Sunday, May 24, 2009

Recollection: From Postcards to Travels and Memorial Day

When I was a very little girl, my mother took me often to stay with my grandparents on week-ends. There were not too many toys and no other children to play with, so my grand-dad, on Sunday mornings, while I was waiting for breakfast in bed (yes, I know, I was spoiled) would bring me a small suitcase filled with postcards. My grandfather had traveled widely and sent many cards to my grandmother as in those days, without telephones and internet, postcards were a quick way to stay in touch. Friends on holidays would always send postcards.

Click on the postcards to enlarge them.

I would look at all these cards from far away places and try to imagine how it would be to visit them. I believe that is when I started my love – and need – of traveling. All these postcards, and my stamp collection, nurtured all the voyages I planned in my mind. So far, I have visited 46 countries (not counting countries where I went numerous times or long layovers at airports like I did in Prague , Jeddah and Sierra Leone.) It is Steinbeck, I believe, who said and rightly so: “Wanderlust is not a curable disease."

When I was about 6 years old I sailed to Istanbul with my mother, and stayed there 4 months on family business. This trip gave me even more impetus to explore far-off places when I grew up. At 13, I went to London on my own to stay with a family (organized by a school program). At 16, I tried to join the French Navy, but they would not have me because I was a girl. I learned from each travel – they are part of who I am today. It is an urge in a way like writers who “have’ to write. I am happy when I am planning the next trip, whether it is local, national or international. I am always looking at travel “deals” or ideas, or reading travel literature. I kept my grandfather’s postcards and added many to his collection by purchasing vintage postcards and buying new postcards in each place I visit. Actually in this country postcard collecting is called “Deltiology” and you can read more about it here

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played over and over again in the quietest chambers…the mind can never break off from the journey.” -Pat Conroy

Since Memorial Day is near, here is a 1909 postcard commemorating the Veteran Soldiers of the Civil War. Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was first observed on 28 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Confederate and Union soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. After World War I it was changed to honor all soldiers fighting in any war instead of honoring only those from the Civil War.

A Lament

We who are left, how shall we look again
Happily on the sun or feel the rain
Without remembering how they who went
Ungrudgingly and spent
Their lives for us loved, too, the sun and rain?

A bird among the rain-wet lilac sings—
But we, how shall we turn to little things
And listen to the birds and winds and streams
Made holy by their dreams,
Nor feel the heart-break in the heart of things?

- composed by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson in 1918


Elaine said...

What a lovely post and such a wonderful postcard collection. When I was a little girl in the 50s I had a collection of postcards, but they were limited to the western US. My family didn't have a lot of money, so we didn't travel often, and when we did it was to Montana or Nebraska where my grandparents and aunts and uncles lived, and that travel was most often for a funeral. I think I was allowed to purchase postcards because they were a cheap souvenir. Your collection is absolutely wonderful, coming from such far off lands, and what a treasured memory of sharing this with your grandfather. I think my very favorite is the one on the mountainside where the women are all in long dresses. It seems so strange that on even such an arduous undertaking they still clung to their long skirts. The one for the veteran soldiers of the civil war is beautiful, as is the lament that follows. It is very appropriate for Memorial Day. Thanks for sharing your collection.

By the way, if you have time before you leave on your trip, check out for some spectacular photos of Denali. He is working there for the summer and has some beautiful photos of wildlife on his blog. I am looking forward to seeing photos from your trip.

claude said...

Belle collection !
J'en ai quelques une en NB que mon grand-Pere m'avait envoyées, essentiellement de Paris ou de sa Normandie natale.
J'en ai retrouvé deux "la Conciergerie" et "la "Bourse".
Je ferai un post mais quand je serai revenue d'Amérique.

Dina said...

Beautiful old postcards. Great to hear your story of how you got the travel bug.
Me too. I spent 1995-2006 on 3 continents doing volunteer work.

Thanks for your nice Chagall link.
You can see his windows in the synagogue near my village here:

Elaine said...

I posted a response for you about what to pack for your trip under my Snowshoe Hare entry. You must be getting very excited about your trip--I think the anticipation is a good share of the pleasure you get out of traveling.

Ratty said...

I can understand why you like to travel so much. All of my grandparents influenced my life so much too. I was never influenced to travel though. After seeing things like this, I wish I would go and see far away places.

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