The New York Times last week had a feature story on the value of souvenirs, those special mementos that that transport us to special places in our past. Here’s the link (you may have to copy and paste, I’m having a hyperlink issue):
I brought something special from my childhood travels with me to New York City. Here’s my memento, ‘Flipper’.
I slept in closest to the wall, in a double bunk that had been stitched from unbleached canvas and strung between two six-foot lengths of half-inch lead pipe, just sixteen inches from the ceiling of our travel trailer.
On the outer half of the bunk was my little brother, Roger. Below us, where big sister Cheryl slept, the dining table of our travel trailer seated all seven Reicherts at mealtimes (someone usually pulled up a camp chair).
Mom and Dad had the couch that folded out into the best substitute for a real bed, and from what I remember, my brothers, Greg and Robert, were outside, sleeping in a tent, where, Dad was sure, boys belonged.
If anyone had to pee at night, everyone woke up.
Even if I was about to burst, I wouldn’t even open my eyes until four a.m., when I smelled coffee and Canadian bacon. To this day, the mingled scents of salted flesh and chocolate earth make me wistful. Mom cooked at home, but in the trailer, an hour before the morning rise of his favorite rainbow trout, Dad was chef.
My dad always wanted an Airstream. With five kids and a fireman’s salary, just four years before he died, my dad and Duke Tedford built the best he could afford, a white-paneled job, barely big enough for the whole Reichert clan.
Me? I always wanted my own penthouse apartment in New York City. You know, with a balcony overlooking Central Park, a personal trainer and a guest bedroom. Like Dad, I lowered my expectations. Like Dad, I’m happy with what I got. And it’s a little bigger than Dad’s travel trailer (but not much).
A decade ago, before the trailer bid its final goodbye to the concrete pad in my mom’s backyard, I sat on the hideous brown plaid couch and dug around in the kitchen, eight inches away. Inside a rickety drawer, I found this flipper. I saw it in my Dad’s big mitt; I could almost smell breakfast at four a.m..
I might have asked, but I didn’t. I took it.
It’s not “stuff”. It’s not a souvenir. That flipper is a goddamn icon.