A reflection of the times


I’m really not much of a saver, which can be good or bad. When it has come to cleaning out living spaces, there have been some things I wished later that I had kept. That’s not so good. But for my own possessions, I think it’s a good thing to at least attempt to keep things winnowed down so that one day it won’t be a burden to my children. That’s my goal.

Two things I have are antique postcard albums that belonged to my grandma, who was born in 1896. Like many things we own that are family pieces, they are too special to dispose of, but I really don’t know what to do with them except to store them on a bookshelf.

What intrigues me about these albums is that my grandma kept them through all the transitions that come from living 98 years, and that included numerous moves and what we now call downsizing–more than once. But somehow she couldn’t part with these albums. And, eventually, neither did my mother.

These are large tomes, each about three inches thick with satiny padded covers. The pages inside are made for postcards to be slipped into the slits on the page, no glue required. Like the albums, the postcards are from the Victorian era more than a hundred years ago, a more ornate and genteel time than our 21st century. Most of the cards were mailed to my grandma; postmarks are generally 1908-1910, when it took just a penny stamp to mail a postcard.

These picture postcards reflect the times, with colorful, ornate pictures. The messages match the artwork. Here’s one illustrated with two kewpie doll-type young girls under an umbrella. The message is “What do we care for the weather, if it makes us cling closer together?”

Another one shows a couple embracing. The message is “They pass the fond hours in the light of the moon, with the nectar of love, and that’s a Jam Spoon.”

Some of the picture postcards were sent by friends or aunts, and many are holiday or birthday greetings like this one: “Today may all life’s promises be fulfilled and every minute that follows form a golden link to hold some gladness in it.”

That’s just not what we see in an email or in a text.

What I also find interesting about these postcards is that many of them were written and mailed to my grandma by her brother, who was ten years older and on his own out of the family home. What a nice big brother he must have been to remember his kid sister back home. I expect that’s why she saved the postcards so carefully in the albums.

And that could be why the albums are stored on my bookcase.