As I wandered the aisles of vendors at the Brimfield Antique Fair last Saturday, I was spending hours among items that predate electronic communications. The world in which a lady’s straw hat and a tilting easel table mirror and wooden printer’s type trays were first created was a world in which it had taken time and stationery and postage to send a message. There had had to be a physical place for a communication, a place as real as the physical space in which the item that was the subject of the communication took up room.
One vendor’s stall at the fair was devoted exclusively to vintage postcards. Each card had originally taken up space somewhere in a recipient’s home or among her effects and perhaps later at an estate sale. The gentleman who was displaying the cards at the Brimfield Antique Fair had arranged them in alphabetical order by continent and country and state and town. Used or unused, each of the cards had been slipped into a cellophane sleeve to preserve it from further wear and tear.
The inspiration was a sudden one. I would attempt to find a postcard of Portsmouth, Virginia, and send it to a friend who lived in that city. The friendship had arisen somewhat around his reading of Writing Cabin. I determined that I would send a piece of old-fashioned mail to someone whose familiarity with the things I regularly write about was the electronic experience that any blog offers.
I was crossing lines, I realized. I would need permission to do this. In our next exchange of emails, I attached a digital image of the postcard of High Street in Portsmouth, Virginia. I typed out a message on the screen of my laptop, explaining to him that I wanted him to have the postcard. I hit “Send.” From what he typed in his reply, my reader seemed delighted at the prospect of receiving the vintage image.
And then the days passed.
Early Monday morning on my way to work I had driven to the nearest post office and slipped an envelope into a mailbox. It was Thursday afternoon when my friend in Portsmouth, Virginia, got home from work and went to check the mailbox by his front door. The Boston postmark told him who had sent one piece of that day’s mail.
Brimfield Antique Fair had arrived at his door. Something had traveled from those aisles of vendors to a home with an address in the Virginia Tidewater. I received an image on my iPhone that evening, attached to an email sent to my Yahoo account. There it was – the postcard I had sent taking up space in another man’s home.
And on a rainy Massachusetts Saturday I got to write about it all.