I was 14 the first time I left a random note in an airplane seat; this time for the elegant forty-year-old blonde who had vacated it for the restroom. I had been eying her the entire ride so far as she was so different than I who had been visiting my father in the humid Midwest and was now returning home to the hot desert for another molasses slow school year that I could not wait to escape from. I wished to be like the blonde – older, free and dressed in the same kind of beige on beige clothes that were made out of linen and hemp and so popular that year. I wrote a simple sentence to her about how classy she was and how much I wished I could be like her someday without any inky clue as to who I, the writer, might be. I didn’t watch as she came back to sit down but I knew she had to have seen it and it gave me a little sense of joy back then to know I had possibly put a smile on someone’s face that day.
This trait of wanting to randomly reach out and touch people has continued throughout my life. It has exponentially increased as my aging has coincided with the technological revolutions of the text message, email missive and Internet social networking machine. It’s so easy to take rich and whimsical communication for granted these days as we flitter on the periphery of dialogue and depth abetted by new tools, which allow us to blurt out one liners at any time in any medium we wish. The pensive musing, poetic note, and hand mailed letter have all but become obsolete – old-fashioned pieces of nostalgia and yellowing lined paper. This coupled with the fact that I am a little perturbed that our memories of each other in person are being supplemented a million pixels a minute by the Facebook photo stream and Instagram hand to hand documentary weapon has inspired me to start a new project.
My daughter bought me a box of postcards a few Christmases back filled with every Vintage book cover ever published by Penguin Books. I discovered them in a dusty box recently and was overjoyed to realize that every one I chose almost automatically reminded me of someone I knew the instant I looked at the title and illustration. So I have embarked upon another project in which I get to surprise others – one in which I draw an image or write a snippet of a poem that represents a memory I have with another person inspired by the particular book cover on the postcard and then I send it to them without signing my name. It doesn’t matter if they never realize who mailed them this card. It doesn’t matter if they even recall the moment I am alluding to with my markings. All that matters is that a piece of them has been jogged from my stony brain’s bank and that my re-introduction of this piece of them to themselves on an otherwise ordinary afternoon will hopefully delight them on their jaunt back inside from the mailbox.