My mother has been on my mind a lot lately. She died almost 18 years ago, and she has missed so much. She was a writer at heart, although a teacher and mother and grandmother in her day-to-day life. One of the things I miss most about my mother is her combination of curiosity about, and ability to make sense of, the world she observed. She penned dozens of poems and short stories, which are aching to be put into a book (it’s coming, family, I promise). She also wrote postcards from her far-flung travels, and I, uncharacteristically, kept them all.
They are typically just 2 or 3 sentences – personal, educational, or sometimes both:
We have visited this beautiful museum today and found one of your favorite painters. Munich is a lovely city – colorful, lively, modern yet aware of its history. Sorry we don’t have more time here – the beer is great!
These two present a veteran traveler, each note capturing the trip itself, whether glamorous or rigorous:
Isn’t she lovely? Paris is more fun than ever. We have been all over the old city, including a trip to Comedie Francaise and Le Misanthrope. We do not know the play and missed most of the French, but it was pretty! Having a ball –
This may or may not be a temple we have seen – we’ve seen so much already! Shanghai is a wonderful place, and only the first stop on our China tour. We are enjoying the scenery, our guides, accommodations, and, of course, the food! The variety of things to see and do is astonishing. See you soon –
She could make it personal and sentimental:
Here’s where your great-grandmother was born. It’s a lovely little place, very much attached to the sea. Guess you are too! We’re having too short a trip to Ireland –
Or simply funny and warm:
Since you’re amused by cows, thought you’d like this one. Thanks for the big nosh at your place and lovely Christmas gifts. Happy New Year!
One of my favorites is this postcard from Oxford University, where my mother attended an English literature program not long before she died. I smile when I think of her in her element, soaking it all in:
Well, here I am! Oxford is a truly special place, all soft golds, blues, and greens. I’ve spent hours walking all over, getting used to this wonderful mixture of town, gown, and people. Today we start our program – I’m excited about being here for it!
These 90 or so tiny missives are a lovely legacy, and one I’m sure my mother had no idea she was creating. But she put thought into filling the limited space with which she had to work, as she put thought into all of her waking moments. As a collection, the postcards show that a person’s unique voice comes through the simplest combinations of words; there’s no need to bulk it up to be heard. In keeping it short, we’re forced to keep it real.
On that note, here’s my postcard to Mom:
Wish you were here.