Soothing With Stamps

When I was a kid, I had a stamp collection. When I went to college and became a genius, I forgot all about it. That’s how you wind up losing your stamp collection. In fact, that’s how you wind up losing a lot of things: you’re lucky if you don’t lose your soul.

Now I’m not talking about Green Stamps, which my generation’s parents used to collect and turn them in for all sorts of things, from wobbly bowling balls to a jack that might hold up your car long enough for you to change a tire. Nor am I talking about the most popular stamps collected these days–food stamps.

I mean postage stamps–and the older and the more exotic, the better.

My Aunt Gertie–who died some years ago at the age of 90, in the same room in which she was born–had a stamp collection that she started as a girl and continued into the 1970s. Oddly enough, although I often used to spend happy hours “helping” my grandpa, her father, with his really impressive stamp collection, nobody ever mentioned to me that Gertie had one, too. Not until a few days ago.

So yesterday I whiled away an afternoon exploring that collection. You know, stamps used to be quite fancy–real works of art, engraved and reproduced on tiny bits of paper. Stamps can tell a story. They preserve history. Aunt Gertie was especially proud of her complete set of 1911 stamps from Persia, marking the start of a new dynasty there. Portraits look out at you from the pages of the stamp album. Some of them I recognized–Eva Peron, Sun Yat-Sen, Franco, Trujillo, Queen Elizabeth II as a little girl. And about others I hadn’t a clue, although once upon a time they were all men and women who were famous.

Next thing I knew, it was almost time for supper: and my spirit was relaxed. Not that the 19th and 20th centuries were restful times, far from it. But there’s something about visiting them via a stamp album that makes them restful now–a reminder of grim days long since gone, and troubles overpast: the world and its history in God’s hands, not ours.

We would’ve dropped it long ago, and broken it.

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