I have a story to share with you that may well be the most jaw-dropping "coincidence" tale I've ever heard, but I have no reason whatsoever to doubt its veracity. A couple of nights ago, we were sitting around the table at my sister-in-law Dee's house after having consumed with way too much gusto an excellent meal prepared with typical and delicious overkill by my brother-in-law. As is usually the case when our family and their friends get together, we indulged in one of our favorite pastimes: sharing anecdotes that are generally hilarious but sometimes veer off into "Can you believe this?" territory. This is one of those.
Dee's best friend of decades, Jane, had shared dinner with us. She and her partner Bill sell collectibles, both at trade shows and on eBay, with a particular emphasis on vintage postcards. This is one of those phenomena whose popularity you'd have no reason to be aware of unless you were directly involved in it or know someone who is, but apparently the market for old postcards of all kinds is ginormous. Not only that, but collectors often will specialize in, for instance, only cards that depict cats....and not just cats, but specifically cats lying on couches. Or they'll look for cards whose postmark coincides with a particular historical date or a certain year or maybe their birthday. A tiny taste of this parallel universe is available here: http://www.moodyscollectibles.com/, here: http://postcards.delcampe.co.uk/page/main/language,E.html and here: http://www.postcard-city.com/. If that's not enough for you, mosey on over to eBay and search for "vintage postcards." You'll pull up almost 11,000 hits. Who knew?
Listening to Jane describe this whole other world where the quest to score another addition to your collection is an all-consuming enterprise was fascinating and weird in equal measure. But the truly astonishing was still to come.
Last year, Jane and Bill attended a huge postcard show, one of several they go to annually, where more than a couple of hundred dealers displayed their wares, a total of something like 200,000 postcards. Jane and Bill split up in order to cover the maximum square footage possible in the alotted time. The thought of wandering around in a warehouse-sized venue, flipping through thousands and thousands of postcards is....well, let's just say "to each her own" and be done with it. For Jane, it's pretty much down to a science now: she knows what she's looking for and will only flip the card over to look at the message, address and postmark if it's something that really catches her eye or her interest.
To hear her describe how she did just that and found herself staring at a card that had once been sent TO HER FATHER gave me goosebumps. No, it wasn't addressed to someone who shared her father's name, it bore her father's name and - get this - his address when he had been stationed many years ago in Greenland. Somehow, in this vast sea of 200,00 little rectangular greetings, she had stumbled upon a postcard half a century old that had once traveled to Greenland and eventually made its way back across the ocean to wind up - amazingly -in Jane's hand and, shortly thereafter, in her father's once again.
I can't remember who she said had sent the card originally, but that's irrelevant to the story. She brought the card to her father, who vaguely remembered having received it, but has no idea when or how it left his possession or how it possibly could have ended up as part of a dealer's wares.
So there you have it, the best coincidence story I have ever heard. And I doubt I'll ever hear a better one.