The Postcards

It was a small shop near the shore of Lake Erie where they still sold mostly knick-knacks, touristy items, and postcards. The postcards were for sale on a round wire rack that you could turn to pick the one that suited your fancy. Everyone in town knew about the postcard rack in that store because every year, two days before Christmas, you could buy a hand-written postcard from a dead relative. At first, the shopkeeper swore the few patrons to secrecy, but as things went in small towns, the secret soon spread as more than one person knew about the secret to the cards. My grandmother discovered this deal with the postcards the same year her Mack, my grandfather, died. Matthew was her husband for years, and his passing early in his life, at the age of sixty-four, caught him and her off guard. She had been practically a shut-in until the day she ventured out to that little shop. She couldn't bother to go into the town proper to purchase trinkets from the drug mart, so she thought she would try her luck at the lakeside shop. Never did she imagine buying a postcard that day. Something drew her to the rack, but she couldn't say what it was. She walked to it twice, stared at the cards in front of her, and not seeing anything that she fancied. She turned the rack three times before she saw a card that she knew was meant for her. Both Mack and she loved birds. Her love was the male Cardinal, while Mack's love was the male Bluejay. There on the rack, it may have been the last one, or the only one, she wasn't quite sure. To her, it didn't matter; what mattered was that that card was meant for her, and she knew it the moment she saw it—no question. She suddenly had a spring in her step and saw some glimmers of hope with the bright and merry season this year. As she brought the card to the shopkeeper, he commented on such a lovely card and how nice it was that she found the card she was looking for in all those cards on the rack. He put the card into a bag, especially for the card, and then bagged the rest of her other items separately. She drove home and wrapped the few trinkets she purchased but neglected to take the postcard out of the bag. It sat on the kitchen table in plain view. The following morning, she came for her tea and breakfast and saw the card on the kitchen table no longer in the bag. A pen lay across the picture of the Bluejay. Puzzled, she couldn't figure out if someone had come in during the night or if her eyes were fooling her. She poured her tea and then flipped over the card. To her amazement, a note was written declaring his undying love but asking her to live her life to the fullest without him. A tear fell down her cheek. Grandma read and re-read the card. She thought someone had played a huge and horrible prank on her. She became enraged. But after she realized no one had come by the house, she believed. She didn't dare tell anyone, fearing they wouldn't believe her. She rejoiced in her love postcard. When she returned to the shop, the rack didn't draw her attention this time. She couldn't figure it out. So she returned to that shop every day for the next year. And again, the rack beckoned to her on the eve of Christmas Eve. She had figured out the way it worked. That was the last year she got a card from the shop. Mack sent her one more note. Sharing that he missed their nights of sitting in the tv room watching Sonny Elliott together. Mostly, though, he missed her, her smell and touch. The following year, my mother went to that same shop because my grandmother, my dad's mom, shared with my mom that she needed to go to that shop and peruse the postcard rack on that specific day. My mother went, not knowing why, until she felt the rack calling to her. She turned it and found the card right for her. She brought it to the clerk. He asked, did someone tell you to come and purchase a postcard, or did you need one to send to someone? It was an odd question, but she answered that her mother-in-law suggested it. He smiled and put the card in a bag for her. Later that day, my mother cried a lot. Tears of joy fell from her eyes as she had a note from her mother. She couldn't believe her eyes. I suppose that my mother told two friends, who told two friends and so on and so on. The shop was tiny but always had plenty of postcards to replenish the rack. The shopkeeper couldn't wait to see who would come in the door next.


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