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A vintage find with actual story

May 29, 2010

When we buy a vintage item on Etsy or from antique and thrift stores, we don’t usually know who it belonged to or from when it was used. So we’re left to our own imagination. But our imagination is just that: some fuzzy self-created fantasy conjured without specific facts. As much as we’d like to think that there’s a story behind our newest Etsy vintage find, be it a rusty pocket watch or a Western leather belt, they don’t come with words.

But yellowed postcards that were written on and postmarked, sent, received and read, offer an explanation. Like who the postcard was addressed to and where they lived, who wrote the postcard, where the postcard was sent from (the Piazza di San Marco). And a message. A personal message for someone who is not yourself. The interception of such a note, even one as simple as “Buon Giorno!” is enough to make one feel a bit… Sherlock Holmsey, for lack of a better term.

Then there’s the handwriting. For the typography-crazed, perhaps a minute’s peek at someone’s penmanship will yield a refreshing study. You see the inconsistency of his y’s, sometimes with a looped tail and sometimes without; the meticulously even spaces between words, as if he placed his forefinger between each one to measure. His spiky letters stick straight up like picket fences without a bit of slant to them. You can see exactly where he ran out of ink, and you wonder if that second, when he dipped his pen for more, allowed him to swat away a sweat bead.

With postcards that were actually written on, you get the historical facts, dates and names, that offer the limbs from which your own daydreams can stem. When you hold an ink-blotted and browned postcard in your hand, you know that it has travelled not only in time but across distances. And more than all of that, you know that someone had been important enough for somebody else to write to them. Mary had been on Giorgio’s mind when he was standing on the steps of the cathedral in Italy. And because Giorgio took the time to write to her, Mary isn’t just Giorgio’s somebody. She’s yours, too. You have her postcard, you have her name. Now you can make her story.

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