Family and/or Autobiography

Card, Catalogued

postcard of factoryI loathe clutter. I am always the person in my house to say, “Time to clean out! Throw it away or give it away! I don’t care what you do with it, as long as it’s gone!”

My family accuses me of taking this to extremes – and maybe I do. I have been caught trying to donate toys that my son is currently playing with and clothes my wife is currently wearing.

But I can get sentimental, too. Once in a while I’ll look at one of my possessions and think, “I will never, ever, in a million-jillion years, give this up.”

Shortly after my grandpa passed away, Mom gave me a stack of his old postcards. I was faintly familiar with them. I remembered seeing them in the bottom of his desk drawer during one of my semi-regular childhood snooping sessions. I never paid the postcards much mind, however, as they were stuffed underneath a distracting stack of ancient men’s magazines that featured models who looked like Ethel Mertz.

But now that the postcards had my undivided attention, I was in love.

My favorite is the card at the top of this post, a depiction of The Draper Company Works, a weaving loom factory in Hopedale, Massachusetts. In terms of architectural ugliness only parking garages are more of an eyesore than factories, yet the illustrator did a stellar job in making the facility look crisp, clean, and pristine. I especially love the faint wisp of smoke apologetically creeping into the brilliant azure sky. It is industrialization at its most Utopian, as seen through beer goggles and a generous slathering of Vaseline.

As much as I love the picture, it is what’s written on the back that makes the postcard a beloved keepsake. Most of the postcards in grandpa’s desk were blank, but this one is a window into my family’s history.

Dated July 21, 1926, it is a letter from my great-grandmother, who was visiting her mother in Upton, Massachusetts, to my great-grandfather, who remained home in Little Falls, New Jersey.

I never knew either one of my great-grandparents. My great-grandpa was long dead by the time I came on the scene. Great-grandma was alive, but my family never visited her. This led me to believe that she was either nasty or bonkers or both.

But that’s neither here nor there; this postcard, written almost 90 years ago and only a few lines long, opens a window into my great-grandma’s mind and soul. I never met her, but I feel I know her.

It reads as follows:

Dear James,

Just a few lines to let you know I feel terrible this morning. My whole body shakes. I scared Mr. Felton and Mama. They thought I was dying. Oh, the gas is killing me. Lastly, that’s all I care to write this morning.

With love from me and the children,

Emily

This card tells me many things. First of all, it explains why great-grandpa didn’t go on vacations with great-grandma. I can just picture him reading this card from the comfort of his home in Little Falls thinking, “Thank God I’m here!”

The card also shows that great-grandma wasn’t one to suffer in silence. When she had gas (and, boy, did she!), she was going to make sure everyone knew about it – not only Mama and Mr. Felton (whoever he is), but also her mailman. That was just the way she rolled.

But the most remarkable thing about the card is this: No one ever threw it out. My great-grandpa kept the card and passed it down to his son. And then my grandpa, in his infinite wisdom, held onto it for his entire life.

And now I have it. And you can bet your butt that I’m keeping it for the rest of my life, too. Mom gave me this postcard for a reason, I think; she knew I was the only one in the family who would appreciate its importance. Only I would make sure it was properly archived and kept safe.

And when I die, I will bequeath it to my grandchildren, for I feel it is my duty to let them know that, on one fateful summer day in 1926, their great-great-great-grandmother had a terrible – almost lethal – case of the farts.

postcard back

About Sarah, Book News, On Writing

Happy Thanksgiving! Buy My Book!

It’s Thanksgiving week, and I think I’ve been pretty good about keeping my shameless promotional urges in check.

But, hey, I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend a lovely gift for all of your friends and extended family.

You're not just bringing corn casserole, are you?
You’re not just bringing corn casserole, are you?

Not only is the book a fine gift, it also keeps an aging writer off the streets.

It also has gotten some great reviews. (In fact, I will probably blather on about that Kirkus star until my dying day. Allow me to apologize in advance for this.)

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Have a joyous Thanksgiving, my friends!