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The best souvenir of them all — a memory

By Debbie Leffler • Jul 1, 2017 at 4:00 PM

There’s a scene in one of my favorite movies, Harold and Maude, where Harold gives Maude a beautiful, expensive ring. He cares deeply for her.

She smiles, thanks him from the bottom of her heart and immediately throws it into the river.

“That way, I’ll always know where it is,” she tells him.

Of course, he looks shocked and disappointed. But there’s a lot of truth to it.

How do you hold on to a special memory? A relationship? A vacation?

The thought occurred to me as our annual week at the Cape Cod beach came to an end. I wanted something to take home with me to remember it by. Specifically, we spend a week each year renting a house at the ocean in Truro, Mass., and I wanted a particular sweatshirt that said “Truro” on the front.

Cost? Don’t ask. Well, OK, ask. The price was $52 and I didn’t buy it.

At first, I wanted it desperately. I could use a new sweatshirt and wearing it would remind me of the summer trip.

A little digression here: When you go on trips, do you buy souvenirs? Who really needs another refrigerator magnet, or pencil, or deck of cards that says “Cape Cod” on it? Who needs a shot glass with a lobster peeking out of it? Souvenirs are overpriced and unnecessary. They break, they get set aside in drawers, they disappear. Do my friends really want a gift that is a memento of a trip they didn’t take? Souvenirs seem like a good idea at the time, but shouldn’t the traveler be spending the vacation enjoying the sand and sun, rather than in a store?

My husband and I collect shells as souvenirs. These are free. When we cleared out the trunk of the car this year before driving to Cape Cod, his shells from last year were still there. After this year’s trip, his newest collection of shells, enclosed in a plastic bag, went immediately into the garage. That bag very soon was broken into by a family of raccoons — apparently there were some relics of fish attached to some of the shells.

Me? My shell collection this year went into a small plastic Ziploc bag, which I labeled “Cape Cod 2017” to differentiate it from other shells gathered from other vacations, unlabeled so I had no idea what year or from what location they were gathered.

Stuff. We gather stuff. Paperweights, pens, T-shirts, shells, mugs with places printed on them — too many mugs for two people who drink a cup of coffee in the morning and refill the same cups all day.

I really wanted that sweatshirt at the time. But I’m glad I didn’t spend $52 on it.

The most important way to remember a special person, or place, or relationship, costs nothing. It is there, in my memory, and I can bring it back any time I take the time to think about it.

I need to unclutter things and remember the good meals and the sound of the ocean and the cool evening walks with my husband to watch the sun set — even the night the wind on the beach was so strong and so cold it felt like it could pick us up.

A sweatshirt can be lost. Until I become senile, the memories will be with me — and if I do stop remembering things, I hope the Cape Cod memories will be the last to fade.

And if I ever need a reminder of our vacation, well, there’s still all that sand on the floor of the car.


Debbie Leffler is a free-lance wrier who lives in Norwalk. She can be reached at rleffler@neo.rr.com.

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