I recently discovered I have something in common with one of my dear friends, Monette.
We are both stamp nerds.
Our husbands have been best friends since college, and Mo and I go back together well over 15 years. Upon discovering our shared obsession with philately, we howled with mirth, nodding our heads in understanding. We shrieked, we pointed at one another, and red wine sprayed from our laughing lips while our husbands stared us as though we were aliens.
"Do you wait in line and ask to see "the book?" I asked Mo, who is possibly the most detail-oriented human being I have ever known. (Mo is a petite and polished human resource expert in the banking industry. Her job is to go into firms who are "outsourcing" and lay the cards on the table for the unfortuate souls getting the axe. I have nicknamed Mo "the Prim Reaper.")
"Oh my gosh, yes!" Mo responded, knocking over her nine dollar glass of wine. I hadn't seen her this excited since the fourth season of Will and Grace was issued on DVD.
This realization leads to a spirited twenty-minute discussion of the joy we take in waiting in line at the post office (that right there should tell you we have a problem), and asking the clerk to show the book of new stamp designs. When the postal worker pulls the big flip book with plastic pages of gleaming stamp samples from behind the counter, I might as well be choosing diamond solitaires at Tiffany's, the way I ooh and aah as the pages are turned for me. Even when I know that standing behind me there are a dozen semi-pissed off people holding heavy packages, I'm sorry — I gotta see those stamps. ALL the pretty stamps!
Having been to a design conference where I met a lovely gentleman from California who is a graphic designer for the US Postal Service, I really linger over the designs now. I take an extra moment to appreciate the beauty of each tiny work of art, wondering if Carl may have created it.
"Is this one self-adhesive?" I'll ask. If the stamp is really lovely, I'll take the chance on paper-cutting my tongue and not think about that nasty, faux-mint flavored glue. Behind me, I know my package-holding haters are thinking, "Geez lady, stamps are stamps. Who gives a *bleep*? Why can't you use the vending machine stamps like everyone else? What's wrong with the good old American flag?"
Mo and decide that most of the world just doesn't understand the joy of finding the perfect stamp. Each of us can recall our personal favorites. Like the oversized lacemaking stamp I placed next to the traditional engraving of artist Mary Cassatt on my wedding invitations in 1988. I can't tell you the name of my wedding planner, but I could draw you a picture of those stamps. Or the Grant Wood painting for "Iowa" that sits in my drawer at work. It was so pretty, I just could't bear to use the last one. Of course, I'm not a serious stamp person, with books and first-issues and such. I just take a little time to admire and choose the little gems when I can.
"Do you hand pick which version of the stamp design you think would be most appreciated by the recipient?" I asked my friend.
"Every time," Mo assured me. "By the way, nice one on the Christmas card. It was my favorite of the four background colors."
"Thanks, honey, I loved yours too. The new Madonna was gorgeous this year."
I don't even mind when the postage rates go up. It means a whole new batch of designs, as exciting to me as the Paris fashions are to the fashionista.
It's probably only fitting that I have this thing for stamps, as I also am equally picky about the handwriting on the envelope. But that quirk is a whole other blog.