Par Avion

I’ve taken a bit of a break from writing – mostly to do some reading, but also because I didn’t have anything interesting to write about. I still don’t but, as that has never stopped me before and I’m done reading for a bit …

I spent some time last week packing things up at my mother’s apartment. They’re putting in new flooring (the old flooring having been ruined during Ida’s flooding) and needed the cabinets and various drawers emptied to keep the breakables from breaking and make the furniture easier to move around. I discovered two things:

First, forty-nine years of accumulated stuff is not easy to pack up in a week! A little easier in two, but not much more.

Second, and I don’t know why this interested me so much more than many other assorted photos and memorabilia: an ‘Air Mail Writing Tablet’.

Airmail, I’ve read, was discontinued in 1977, so you kind of get an idea how old this tablet is.

It is from a time where tablets didn’t run out of power, they just ran out of paper; you replaced the ink by buying a new Bic (or, perhaps, sharpening a pencil), and you sent a message by licking a stamp and placing an envelope in a box on the corner.

[Digression: You can still do all these things, except, maybe, licking the stamp since they all seem to be self-adhesive these days – I’ve tried licking one… didn’t like it.]

Unlike other writing paper, air mail paper was thinner, therefore lighter, and semi-transparent , but not quite as light and transparent as tracing paper. It was used because the cost of mailing a letter overseas, priced by the ounce, could quickly add up, especially if you had a lot to say. All our relatives were – still are – in Brasil and my mother, who didn’t write well, would dictate letters to me that sometimes took up four double-sided pages.

[Another Digression: My mother was a champion of TMI before TMI was a thing. Sometimes what she had to say could be quite embarrassing for a young me to put down on paper.]

To keep your lines straight, these tablets came with a sheet of ruled paper that you would place under the writing sheet. If you didn’t use it, you would likely start writing diagonally rather than horizontally – being left-handed, this was a big problem for me.

The internet still has a lot of airmail pads and envelopes to sell…

‘Go back in time with our Airmail Stationery Sets!’

‘Lovely white vintage onion skin paper! Totally a rare fine!’

‘We have a stash of this amazing paper and would love to share it with you. Available in two sizes’

… I’m thinking of using part of the remainder of this fifty sheets in this tablet to write a friend or two.