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Sixty-Something: Vacations, Mementoes And Souvenirs

T.J. Clemente

The author's vacation trinkets. (Courtesy Photo)

When you get to be sixty-something years old the odds are you have been on a few vacations over your lifetime. Years back a wise old man, once told me, "A man who loves his job is on vacation every day!" No doubt a great saying with a nice deep meaning but now that I too am seasoned in life experiences I would like to add, "That even if you love your job and your home, a vacation is good for the mind, body and soul."

Over the years I can remember the darkest, coldest, snowstorm or full rain days of a long winter. I actually enjoy cold weather hikes, skiing and things like that, but as I have aged, I enjoy leaving the cold behind and walking off that plane and smelling warm tropical ocean air. My older brother once told me the moment you put the seat buckle on in your airplane seat, mentally your vacation starts. I agree. Then while stepping off the plane you experience all the exhilaration of senses that remind you of things just not in the winter air.

Why is it on vacations, tropical drinks, taste better than they do in the summer? Yes you order those cocktails served in coconuts or bizarre glasses with pineapple and little umbrellas sticking out of them and you don't feel ridiculous sitting in public holding it and sipping it. Many times you reorder them. Also some people swim more in a week of vacation then they do during the whole summer.

It is so easy to pack for a tropical vacation. Shorts, tee shirts, bathing suit, underwear and sandals and a big ridiculous hat are all you need. Not quite like a skiing vacation where you start with three heavy coats working your way down to those OMG "why are these so heavy ski boots."

Both my grandmothers each had a shrine of vacation mementoes in their homes. So did my mother. It was either in the kitchen or TV room, but it was always somewhere in plain sight. The collections had inexpensive souvenirs from family trips. They had snow bubbles, little plaster trinkets, a small Eiffel Tower, and since both grandparents were 100 percent Italian many little things from Italy always including a rosary bead set from the Vatican.

Now that both my wife and I are sixty-something we have our own collection of less than $10 souvenirs on a table in the kitchen. A piece of every short vacation lives on in every one of those silly things. Our trips to Mexico, the Caribbean, the cities of Europe, and even trips to my old temporary home in Montauk are on that counter. Our collection includes all the lighthouses I have sailed by or visited on the East Coast. A good friend of mine called them dust collectors; I like to think of them as great memory collectors. A confession, half of them were bought at the airport waiting to board the plane, but isn't that when one begins to feel the vacation ending? Perhaps these souvenirs are a way to keep that particular vacation experience somewhat preserved. My favorite is from Chamonix, France. It is a simple piece of granite mounted on a piece of wood with the tinniest of climbers on a rope climbing up. A close second is small plaster gondola scene from Venice. My wife is partial to a hand sized pine wood tree that we bought at the airport in Helsinki, Finland because her mother was 100 percent Finnish and her maiden name was a word for pine tree in Finnish.

We have odd rocks, seashell and even a piece of lava. Both my wife and I know where they are from and what they mean. There are some passed down artifacts from our parents and grandparents blended in with one or two objects the very now grown children made when they were tots. In reality that little table is a view of our lives. That is why whenever I go to a yard tag sale and see the souvenir trinkets up on display I feel a sense of sadness. I know someone died and left behind these trinkets that meant so much and now are just junk for 25 to 50 cents each.

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