Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - June 5, 2003
We were driving to town in my van one day when Art noticed the red silk rose in the cubby below the radio. "Where did that come from?" he asked.
I had to smile because he had given it to me, but had forgotten. Two years ago, we and the girls were walking through Regensburg, Germany when Art spotted the rose on the walkway. As sort of a joke, he picked it up and presented it to me as a gift.
Why I kept it, I'm not sure. Most of us keep small souvenirs that appear to others to be little more than objects that don't seem to quite fit into their surroundings. In our entryway, an old oil can - the type with a flexible snout - is filled with silk sunflowers. The oil can was my Dad's and whenever I see it, I think of him on his John Deere tractor.
On the corner of the bedroom dresser is an old compass. Art's Dad used it during the time he made a living by trapping. Before that, it belonged to Art's grandfather, who relied on it to get safely back to camp when he was a lumberjack in Wisconsin's virgin pine forests.
Some of our souvenirs become invisible. When I first left the rehabilitation hospital to rejoin the human race six years ago, I was ever-conscious of the tracheotomy scar on my neck. For awhile I was turtleneck crazy in an effort to cover it up. But the arrival of hot summer days made that impractical and somewhere along the way I've almost forgotten about the scar.
Art said he had the same thing happen when he registered with the draft board after his 18th birthday. The official asked if he had any identifying marks or scars. Art reported he had none. "What about that scar on your cheek?" the man asked. It was a birthmark which Art no longer thought about.
In a way, I suppose family stories are souvenirs too - things that momentarily transport our thoughts back to another time. Sometimes it even takes us back to a time we cannot remember. I love to hear Art tell the story about when Katie was small and he suddenly became aware that there were no noises being generated anywhere in the house by our energetic two-year old. He went looking and found her behind the living room rocker, stuffing her face with chocolate frosting from a container she had opened on her own. For me, the story takes me back to that time, even though I was gone when the events occurred. But Katie is the one most likely to ask Art to retell the story and she has no recollections at all of that time in her life.
When my Dad and his brothers got together, I often asked them to recount certain stories, even though I wasn't present when the related events were unfolding. I do the same thing when Mom and Aunt Edith are together.
We carry some souvenirs, such as my scar, with us even when we'd just as soon leave them behind. Souvenirs which conjure up pleasant memories make us smile while others allow us to take satisfaction in what we or others have overcome.