CARRIE JANE KNOWLES
I’m slowly unpacking from a trip to Belgium and Holland. The laundry is done and the suitcases put away, and all that is left to deal with is my desk: it is scattered with postcards and maps. My husband and our children have always teased me about my postcard collecting habit. For the most part, however, they’re patient with me and are generous in giving me the time and the space I need to pick the perfect card to bring back. I take my time buying postcards. It’s part of being on vacation for me. I’m always looking for just the right one, because the postcards are my memories.
I bought my first postcards in 1968 when I spent the summer studying Anglo-Irish Drama at the English Language Institute in Dublin. I had a camera, but didn’t use it much. Film was expensive and the camera was heavy to lug around. Instead, I bought postcards. I didn’t have much money, so each of those postcards was a long and considered purchase. They were pictures of places and things I wanted to remember. Forever.
My “forever” at nineteen, was not the forever I understand today at sixty-six. Forever got complicated when my mother developed Alzheimer’s.
While my husband and I were in Amsterdam I got an email from Second Wind Publishing sending me the edits of The Last Childhood, my non-fiction memoir about our family’s struggle with our mother’s Alzheimer’s disease, to proofread.
This is the third publisher and the third time this book will be published. I may win a prize for the book with the most publishers! One can only hope. I’ve added new information each time the book has been reissued. And, each time it has been reissued, I have had to proofread it and relive it again. This last time through was the toughest yet.
I’m now the age my mother was when she first developed Alzheimer’s.
One afternoon during our trip, my husband and I were having lunch after visiting the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam. While we were waiting for lunch, Jeff asked me which postcards I had chosen. I took them out of my backpack and showed them to him. I had selected only three: two paintings by Vermeer, “The Milkmaid” and “Woman Reading a Letter”, and one study by Rembrandt, “Lion Resting”. I had chosen these three because they were the pieces in the museum I had liked the most. They were the ones that I knew would spark my memory of being in that amazing museum and the day we had together seeing the paintings.
“What will you do with all of them?” he asked. He wasn’t asking what I would do with these thee, but with all of the postcards I had collected over the years. It was not the first time he had ever asked such a question.
It was, however, the first time I knew the answer. These weren’t just inexpensive postcards: they were really priceless treasures.
Some day I plan to open all my boxes of postcards and maps and spread them out on a table. I will sort through them and take pleasure in rediscovering all the trips we have taken together, all the places we’ve been, all the moments we have shared.
I will hold on to these precious postcards for as long as I can, savoring the joy of it all, hoping that my forever will last as long as I do and my memories will stay with me long after I am able to travel the world, in fact, I hope, as long as I live.
The Last Childhood, scheduled to come out by Second Wind Publishing Summer 2015!