It’s almost time for a new entry in the postcard contest … but until then, I’m still thinking about the Coley’s Point postcards. They’re owned by my Aunt Bernice, as is the house in which they were found, and when I asked to borrow them as I started researching That Forgetful Shore, they arrived in this box:
Can you see what’s written on the side of the box? “This is VALUABLE STUFF from Coley’s Point.” And this is why I love my family. Especially my aunt, Bernice Morgan, who many of you know is one of Newfoundland’s best-known writers of historical fiction, and also the writer of the message on the side of this box. But while only she might put it this way, I’m pretty sure my whole family would see the idea of “value” the same way she does.
In some families, a box labelled “This is VALUABLE STUFF from Coley’s Point” might contain priceless family jewellery (though one would hope they might find something better than a cardboard box sealed with masking tape to store it in). Or perhaps the papers proving title to a piece of land that might be worth something … or at least a collection of old comic books that are currently selling for tens of thousands of dollars on eBay. If the box did contain 100-year-old postcards, the notation that “This is VALUABLE STUFF” might refer to the hope that the collection could be worth something if sold to a museum, or that, from a philatelic point of view, one of the stamps on the postcards might be a rare one worth a few dollars (there is, by the way, a Newfoundland stamp of that era that is quite rare and worth tens of thousands of dollars. Yes, I’ve checked, and no, it’s not on one of the postcards).
But no. The rest of the note says, “This is VALUABLE STUFF from Coley’s Point — some day it will make a book or an art exhibit.”
I absolutely love the fact that my Aunt Bernice — and, by extension, the whole Morgan family — recognizes that what makes a box of old postcards valuable is that somewhere in there there’s a story, or a piece of art, or both. I’m glad to have had the chance to use this postcards to inspire one of the many possible pieces of art that could grow out of this box of treasure — I’m sure many more are possible. That’s the other great thing about this kind of treasure. If your family has a box of precious gems, you can sell them exactly once and spend the cash. If your family has a box of old postcards, everyone who touches them will come away with something different, each valuable in its own way.
I’ve often said that I grew up in the best possible family for a writer to grow up in — one where creating stories was seen as not only a worthwhile but a perfectly natural occupation to take up. Nothing illustrates that better than this box — which I must get back to my cousin’s house, since she’s thinking of doing a series of paintings or prints inspired by the postcards …