Archivist Meg shares her experience of receiving a hand-made greetings card during lockdown and what it meant to her.

In my time working at The Postal Museum, I’ve realised just how much I took postal networks for granted before. They are a kind of everyday miracle that you notice only when something goes wrong: when you don’t get the thing you were expecting to arrive, or when a global health emergency is declared and you can’t really leave your house – oh, and you live at the other end of the country from family members. To say I have relied on the post during the period of lockdown and beyond is an understatement. Postal networks are how I’ve gotten everything from toilet paper and craft supplies, as well as my favourite items of stationary: greetings cards.

Even during this period, one of immense difficulty, there are still occasions to mark: birthdays and anniversaries, the arrival of new life, achievements, and religious ceremonies. Greetings cards can help bridge this gap, maintaining relationships and connections at a distance, and are a way to let people know that although they might be geographically far away, they are present in our thoughts.

My love of greetings cards is well known – I have often told my husband that I would (eventually) be fine if he didn’t give me a birthday present, but not giving me a birthday card might start divorce proceedings. Choosing just the right card for someone is a bit of an art form, and one that I both relish and cherish, having spent many hours trying to find the perfect one to mark a specific occasion and keeping the vast majority that I have received over the last 13 years.

And at a time when it has become fraught to touch things and one another, receiving things through the post, sent by loved ones has become even more special, in the ways that you can see personalities in the cards chosen for you, in the messages written, and especially within handwriting, so individual to each of us. Although digital technologies have certainly kept many of us in touch with one another, I think that it is the very tangibility of the post that has made it special during this time. To be able to hold something that once touched the hand of a loved one is without equal at a time when distance is the rule.

Given my feelings on the subject, dear reader, you can imagine my joy in responding to my postie knocking on the door (at 2.30pm Monday through Friday, almost without fail) and passing me a parcel, containing this card:

It was made by my aunt, from an original linocut of hers, and signed by both her – and in a first! – my uncle and was sent in response to a small package I had posted to them few weeks earlier. It is one of the most wonderful cards I have ever received: I opened it during a particularly low mood and was instantly cheered at the thought that they were both thinking of me and grateful that we were able to communicate in such a personal and intimate way, despite the distance between us. Accompanying the card was a small ceramic bowl in a beautiful shade of robin egg blue, matching perfectly the bird depicted on the card.  A few months on, it has already acquired treasured status amongst my belongings as a reminder of how you can hold people in your heart, even when they aren’t near.

As I write this, many of my loved ones are in the Aberdeen lockdown and I am over 300 miles away, in London. But postal networks – and their ability to gather, process and deliver the mail – is a way to bridge this gap, and cards are a tangible way to remind people that although we can’t see them yet, they can still have a piece of us until we can meet again.

Have you received post during the pandemic that had a special meaning to you? Take part in our new project to document the COVID-19 crisis. Help us capture this moment in history by submitting suggestions of items such as letters, greetings cards or parcels, and add to our 500-year-old story.

– Meg Venter, Archivist

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