Stamp collecting never entered my mind. Not as a way of traveling the world from the discomfort of my own home. It made more sense to me than coin collecting did, even when I took into account the value of some of the coins that are out there-there are some valuable stamps out there, too but I still didn't get it.
My grandma and stamp collecting
My grandma used to collect stamps. She'd collect rare stamps and common ones. Whenever any members of the family would go on vacation, no matter where in the country or the world that it was, we would send her a postcard or a letter so that she could save the stamp for her collection.
The weirdest part of me knowing this is that none those family members seem to remember her doing the whole stamp collecting thing, yet it's such a strong recollection I have that I correlate to her, that I was surprised at the response I got when I asked what happened to her stamps.
We all knew she collected buttons. As a knitter - she was a grandma - she had a tin of buttons. Some of the buttons were almost as old as she was, dating them back to the 20s and the 30s when everyone made their own clothes and Coco Chanel was likely in a fist fight with Elsa Schiaparelli. But stamps?
The envelope of stamps in the drawer
False memories exist. They have a name: False memory syndrome. That's good for them but I don't consider my grandma's envelope of stamps (so thick it should have been called her book of stamps) to be a false memory and I don't know why the fact that she engaged in stamp collecting at all to be worthy enough of one.
I spent a lot of time at her house when I was little. When your single mother works a full-time job, it's a thing that happens if you're lucky. My grandma and grandpa lived in the same town as us, close enough to my school that my grandpa could pick me up from school then take me back to their house to watch cartoons. My grandma would have banana sandwiches ready and waiting without fail. This meant that during any organized school holidays, I spent the daytime there, too.
It was a cool summer when she showed me the envelope of stamps. I remember it. Outside of their house, there was a graveyard and I hated to sleep in the spare bedroom because of it, yet spent a chunk of my time there on a sofa bed that was nearing 30-years-old.
In this room, there was a chest of drawers, a vanity mirror, and a framed painting of the type of aircraft that my uncle - my grandma and grandpa's son - was an engineer on. It was in one of the drawers from which my grandma pulled the rare stamps envelope to show me.
She had stamps from Cyprus, from Spain; even a couple from the USA (Ohio, to be exact). Most of them were still on a section of the envelope they had been on when they arrived. She had torn off the corner of it where the stamp was and collected them like that.
I remember this envelope of stamps, but nobody else does.
Why stamp collecting would be a memory
My grandma and I weren't as close as me and my grandpa, so this moment stands out to me as one of a mere few that I have which involve she and I alone, not to mention that stamp collecting would be a bizarre hobby to make up - however broad my imagination. For my grandma to have been the matriarch of a family that fractured after we lost her and yet no one but me to know she had that envelope in one of the drawers in her spare bedroom is certifiably insane.
Firstly, I wouldn't have known that stamp collecting was a thing. Secondly, again, she and I didn't spend a lot of time alone together. I was a kid that never liked to be inside unless they could help it, and my grandma was then, for the most part, housebound. It just doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Today it just isn't the same, it's so easy to order stamps online that they don't create the same memories they once did.
After she died, I asked my aunt what happened to the collection of stamps. My aunt looked at me what I'm sure was odd, except I don't even remember that as solidly as I remember my grandma pulling that damn envelope of old stamps out of that damn drawer. She told me my grandma didn't have a stamp collection. I said I wasn't asking so I could sell them in case there were some valuable stamps in there that I could sell to make a chunk of money off of, just that I knew she had them and I would have liked to look at them.
False stamp syndrome?
In my older years, I've been told more about my grandma's character that makes me even more convinced that the envelope of stamps incident happened. I found out that when the UK was trying to fill up its colonies, my grandma was all too ready to leave everything to head for the shores with my grandpa, but that he didn't want to do it.
This struck me because when I knew her, in her older years, she rarely left the house to go to the shops, so to think she was a travel fanatic was too outlandish. She always wanted to travel; to see things. It gave more credence to my memory and the distinct energy I recall being in the spare room that day. Like she was entrusting me something that she had nobody else; that these stamps were her way of seeing the world when she couldn't bring herself to see the end of her street anymore.
The fervency at which she showed me those stamps is exactly the same way I show off my concert tickets. It was an excitement that said: This is from a far off land that I dream of.
Ever since I've collected stamps too.
For you, Nanna.