The Humble Beginnings
Growing up in Tripoli during the 1960s was a unique experience. The world was a different place back then, and entertainment options were limited compared to today’s standards. Television was a luxury: only one family on our block had a television, and every night at 7:00 p.m. when cartoons started, all the kids on the block would run over to the Teng’s house and watch American cartoons for thirty minutes. Amidst this simplicity, I was introduced to the world of postage stamps.
One day, an adult – probably recognizing my need for a hobby – suggested that I take up stamp collecting. It was a simple enough idea, and little did I know that it would ignite a lifelong passion. Armed with nothing more than curiosity and a pair of tweezers, I began my stamp-collecting journey.
The Art of Stamp Collecting
The first step in my stamp-collecting adventure was to carefully remove stamps from the envelopes that contained letters or cards sent to us by friends and family from all around the world. It was a delicate process that required patience and precision. The goal was to extract the stamp intact, without tearing or damaging it.
Once the stamps were liberated from their paper confines, the next step was to soak them in water. This process was essential to gently remove the adhesive and any remnants of paper. I remember placing the stamps in a shallow tray of water and watching as they gradually released their attachment to the envelopes. After a few hours, I would gently peel them off the envelope paper.
With the stamps free from their paper prison, they needed to be dried carefully. This usually involved placing them on a clean, dry towel or blotting paper and letting them air-dry. Patience was once again key, as rushing this step could lead to wrinkled or damaged stamps.
The Art of Preservation
To ensure that my stamps stayed in pristine condition, I employed a technique that many collectors use – pressing them in heavy books. This helped to flatten any curling or warping that might have occurred during the soaking and drying process. The stamps were carefully arranged within the pages of a heavy book, and the weight of the book would gently flatten them over time.
Once my stamps were clean, dry, and flat, they were ready to find their place in my stamp books. These albums were like windows to the world, filled with colorful, exotic, and historic stamps from various countries. Each page was a journey to a new destination, a window into the culture and history of a far-off land.
Endless Organizing and Exploration
One of the joys of stamp collecting is the endless organizing. I meticulously arranged my stamps based on the countries they represented. Each country had its dedicated section in my stamp book, but as I end up having more and more of one country’s stamps, I have to push the other countries’ stamps onto later pages, or start a new album. Sometimes, the organization got to be difficult that everything becomes a huge jumbled mess and I end up just placing my stamps in a box.
As the years went by, my collection grew, and my knowledge expanded. I learned about the history, geography, and culture of countries from all over the globe through the tiny pieces of art that adorned their postage stamps. It wasn’t just about collecting; it was about learning and appreciating the diversity of our world.
A Lifetime Hobby
Today, many decades later, I still collect stamps. What began as a simple hobby in Tripoli has turned into a lifelong passion. This wasn’t a hobby I kept up with non-stop for sixty years. For a few decades, as I embarked on my journey to the United States, traveled, went to college and started my own family, I stopped tending to my collection. Luckily, my mom, as an empty nester, picked up my hobby and continued adding to my collection, sometimes even more intentionally and focused than I ever did. The collection has grown. In the past decade, as my parents moved to a retirement community and had to de-clutter, my mom gave me back the stamp collection I started and she continued. While examining the old and new the stamps, I was struck by sudden recognition of my stamps, nostalgia, desire to learn about the world, and a renewed fervor for stamp collecting and sharing. Stamp collecting has become a renewed source of joy, curiosity, and connection with people from diverse backgrounds.
In a world where digital technology has transformed the way we connect and communicate, there’s something timeless about the world of stamp collecting. It’s a hobby that encourages exploration, curiosity, and patience – qualities that are as relevant today as they were in the 60s.
So, if you ever find yourself with an envelope in your hands, take a moment to appreciate the small piece of art affixed to it. You never know where it might lead you. Stamp collecting has not only enriched my life but has also connected me to a vast and beautiful world waiting to be explored, one stamp at a time.