When I was about four years old, I received my very first piece of mail. The first that I can remember anyway. I could read a little by then, so when my mom showed me the postcard, my eyes lit up at seeing my name written in elegant handwriting. The front of the postcard featured pictures from Charleston, South Carolina, my father’s hometown. Old antebellum homes, women practicing the ancient art of basket weaving, palmetto trees. I knew the city well, even at my young age. We visited a few times a year, always staying at my paternal grandmother’s home. When we made the five-hour drive, I would sit up front between my two parents (this was the eighties, when car seat laws were more lax) in our huge Chevy. Even when we were miles and miles away, the windows down on both sides, I would imagine I could hear and smell the Atlantic Ocean. I knew our trip would include a visit to Folly Beach, a favorite of mine because of the huge waves that I loved to jump. If you were to ask my parents back then what my favorite part of those trips were, they would most likely say visiting the ocean. It’s almost true. It was a close second.
My favorite part was waking up early – I always woke up really early in those days, full of childish energy. I would race downstairs, knowing my grandmother would already be awake. I didn’t know what time she woke up, but it was always before me, unlike my parents who I always seemed to have to drag out of bed back home. I would sit at the table and she would make breakfast, something simple like cold cereal or oatmeal, that I’d usually be too excited to finish. And we’d talk. Or I’d talk. Mostly babbling about whatever was going on in my life at the moment. I was an old soul. She would laugh at my little jokes and anecdotes, then I would get up from the table, leaving most of my breakfast behind, but she’d never force me to “clean my plate” like most of her generation would have. I’d run out of the front door to visit my cousins who lived a few doors down, feeling very grown up that I got to walk there by myself, not knowing that she was watching from the doorway until I made it safely inside. Those few minutes every morning were my favorite. I had my grandmother all to myself.
When I got the postcard that day, I read it aloud with my mother’s help. It was from my grandmother of course, telling me how nice it was to hear my voice over the phone a few days ago, reminding me to help my mom take care of my brand new little brother. I smiled and ran to show my dad, who saved it for years and years, until I was old enough to be entrusted with it. Now it’s framed and sitting on the mantle over the fireplace in my home. My grandmother passed away a year or so after I got that piece of mail. I think maybe my most treasured possession isn’t the postcard, but my memories. Not everyone got to have two awesome grandmothers as a kid. So I treasure that postcard – that I still take out of the frame from time to time, and the fact that I can still hear her voice in my head as I read it.