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Karin Kasdin Headshot

Save Me From My Souvenirs

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I ate all the souvenirs from my spontaneous weekend driving trip to Maine and I have no regrets. Having downed the sumptuous goodies we purchased at The Bread and Roses bakery on the way out of the state, I have nothing to show for my mini-vacation but a phone full of pictures and an abdomen swollen with lobster and blueberry pie. I couldn't be happier.

In my younger days, which I believe ended yesterday with the blueberry pie, I would have refused to return from any sojourn to a new place without a tzotchke... some tangible memento of downtime well spent.

There are certain life lessons one can only learn through experience. A thousand seasoned parents can warn you that having children requires a lifelong commitment to worry, but until you beget your own brood, the admonition falls on deaf ears. Likewise, you must systematically stuff your home with tzotchkes before you catch on to the fact that your tzotchkes will some day own you.

A green glass duck resides on my desk and watches me write every day. He is the tzotchke who started it all. Harold and I saved for three years in order to afford a trip to Italy for my 30th birthday. In those dark days before ATMs, we used traveler's checks for all our purchases. Each evening of our vacation, before settling in to sleep, we spread our traveler's checks and our lira and our change on the bed. We counted it and recounted it, amazed at how quickly our stash was shrinking. On the last day of our dream vacation, I lit upon the duck, sitting with his flock, gazing in amazement, (or was it disdain), at the hordes of tourists passing by his perch in the Murano glass factory. I had to have that duck. The remainder of our money had been designated for dinner that night. Our choice came down to dinner or the duck. We went home hungry.

He wasn't an expensive duck. Thankfully, today I could purchase him and still have a pizza. I could also have purchased a tzotchke from Maine if I wanted one. But where would I put a ceramic lobster or a "chowda" mug? Next to the scrimshaw plate I bought in Nantucket 20 years ago? I didn't like scrimshaw when I bought it. I like it less now. Harold and I cherish the lifelong friends we made on a business trip to Sweden a decade and a half ago. I can't say the same about the wooden Swedish flag we purchased. The Swedish flag is turquoise and yellow. Try to find a spot for that in a Pennsylvania colonial. I bought huge silver and turquoise earrings that looked great on me in Santa Fe. Back home they look like huge turquoise and silver earrings that would be a staple of my wardrobe if I ever moved to Santa Fe.

Once I thought all those trinkets would remind me of shared, carefree days. Now they just remind me that I need to dust. My family's smiles are constant reminders that I have been blessed with an embarrassment of rich experiences, many of which have nothing to do with travel. Among other things, I held onto my middle son's baseball jersey from the state championship game, a stuffed bear wearing a Boston University tee-shirt from the firstborn's graduation and a toy guitar from the baby's bar mitzvah centerpiece. Harold and I often savor our collected adventures by reliving them through conversation. I've had the duck for 27 years and he has yet to quack.

We have taken thousands of pictures over the years. They're collecting dust in a cabinet along with various owner's manuals, warranties, VHS tapes and worthless baseball cards. I am once again resolving to sort them, date them and put them in albums so I can find them and enjoy them in my golden years. Then I am going to liberate myself from my tzotchkes. They're not valuable. The children don't want them. I may have to throw it all away. Except for the silent green glass duck. He stays.