Over the weekend my mother and I were going through some old boxes and came across a little brown paper bag of stamps. A few were from the U.S. but most were collected from letters she had received from family and friends in Brazil.
"Should I throw them away?" my mother asked.
When I poured the contents into the palm of my hand I shot her a look that said, "are you kidding me?"
I just kept saying O-M-G as I delicately moved the stamps around my palm with an index finger. I was trying to get a good look at each one.
The above image only shows about half of the stamps from the collection (some were duplicates and others were just not as interesting). They highlight architecture, design, agricultural life, the Native Americans, and the history of colonization of Brazil. They also represent the very first years of my mother's life in this country. They are remnants of a time when this hard-working, non-English speaking twenty-three year old woman would spend evenings writing letters home and re-reading the ones she had received. Aside from memories, some clothes and a cookbook, those messages, stories and stamps were her only connection to home.
"What's the big deal — they're just stamps. What can we do with them?" she rolled her eyes nonchalantly — slightly disconnected from their story.
"Keep them, mom! First of all this is a treasure to a graphic designer — you know I love collecting cool ephemera. But most importantly this is a part of your history!"
That interaction sparked an entire evening of tea and conversation about our family — mainly about my grandmother whom we know so very little.
I listened to stories I've heard a dozen times over, but digested them as if it was the very first time they were shared. Laughter and tears formed when I pulled out my iPad to look at photos of our Brazilian family members on Facebook (thank goodness for Facebook). From there we were connected to other family-folk we didn't even realize were on the social media site.
It was a sweet moment to have with my mother. But also a little sad.
During this time of year families are coming together to celebrate the holidays, laugh and get on each others' nerves. Because my mother's side of the family lives on a different continent our stamp-inspired reminiscing session became a brief reminder that we don't have the luxury to do the same.
Even with that, though, we still feel so very blessed to have each other.
Happily I've saved those stamps from a trash-heap doom. They are now safely tucked away in a drawer, also preserved with the use of technology and now have become a very special memory shared between mother and daughter.
What about you? Do you have family overseas or across the country you can't always get to during the holidays or for specials events? Are you like me, kind of use to it? Or is it still difficult? How do you stay connected? Any fun traditions spawn from the distance?
Do share your story.