When I travel, and when my suitcase allows for a little breathing room, I bring back souvenirs for Son #2. Key chains and pens are the most practical keepsakes for a light traveler like me, while t-shirts offer him a “Been There, Done That,” walking billboard plastered across his chest. Of course, these practicalities cannot be displayed on the shelf in his room quite like his collection of bobble heads. Yes, those bouncy pre-form caricatures tickle him, regardless of whose face might be bobbing at him. Abraham Lincoln journeyed from Illinois to his shelf, while his predecessor, Mr. Washington, came from the National Archives. Bobbles seems to thrive in DC, since Albert Einstein also originated at the Air and Space Museum, but Mr. E=MC2 also includes audio enhancements reciting Pi (insert thinly veiled movie reference here).
Fenway Park, Veteran’s Stadium (see “The Vet” from November 2011), Busch Stadium, and Tropicana Field supply plenty of wobbly figures, too. Baseball seems to be the hometown bobble favorite, including Kermit the Frog crouched wearing a catcher’s mask and Dodger blue as his head freakishly bobs, even for an amphibian. Mickey Mouse accompanies the green character, and Jack Sparrow seems a natural with his rather odd head movements. In a variety of sizes, all with oversized skulls, every trip brings the possibility of a new addition to his shelf, and so I keep an eye out for these oddities.
Souvenirs, when purchased consistently, create a record of the places and moments spent navigating the planet and absorbing its beauty. Rather than collecting dust, I cherish my mementos and make time to reflect on the memories of each place they represent. But I prefer to reminisce with a fine wine in hand. Like my son’s shelf, my kitchen cabinet contains a treasure trove of reminders of the New Mexican wineries, the 100th anniversary of Glacier National Park, the Food and Wine festivals at Epcot and Disneyland, the bears of Yosemite, the back roads of Missouri, and memories of thousands of miles of journeys. Pouring a healthy portion of cabernet into any of the goblets I have brought back from my distant destinations reminds me of the places I have traveled, the mental images I retain and the experiences I have accumulated since turning a legal drinking age.
Wine glasses, like bobble heads, present a special challenge as cargo, but unlike the oversized heads in their bubble-packed boxes, a small measure of tissue paper often serves as the only protection between the glassware and the hundreds of miles of my return trip. These one-of-a-kind purchases from places I may never see again require special handling and care to survive the flight home. Wrapped in paper, then a simple plastic bag, then gently nestled among my dirty laundry, I have yet to lose a wine glass in transit. On any given day, the warmest moments of my life flood out of the cabinet, permitting me to remember those adventures spent on the road finding, witnessing and enjoying America’s beauty. Perhaps my son lives vicariously through me when he opens the door to his room and he watches all the weirdly dancing heads greet him.