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Souvenirs: authentic or cheesy?

Updated on August 22, 2009

I'm sure we've all gotten them, at one time or another. Just the thought of entering a shop, filled with the goodies, is all we adults need to run the other way! I'm talking about souvenirs... snow globes you just loved to shake and turn upside down, to watch the snow gently fall to the bottom of the globe... t-shirts and other apparel stamped with the picture of your favorite Disney character... hot sauce Uncle Bob loves, from a certain part of Kansas... a plastic egg filled with liquid goo, from a science center trip... we've seen them all!

I recall a trip our family took to Niagra Falls, one summer. I was small, maybe 3. All I remember are a couple of things... the falls, of course, and a couple of cheesy souvenirs. You know those stainless steel mini-spoons they have, with the region's name on it? I remember them. There was a spoon for every state in the U.S. I remember, later on, thinking, "What in the world would someone do with all those spoons?" Like most popular travel destinations, the falls also had their share of "momentos..." flags, magnets, food products, apparel, etc.

The reason for all the "stuff," I'm assuming, is because people buy the stuff! Is any of it really worth buying, though? I wonder.

I went with my son on a few field trips, during school. One was to a local zoo. The end of the day, of course, closed with a trip to the souvenir shop. The class, comprised of all 1st graders, at that time. Can you just imagine taking 20-25 tired, hungry, cranky 1st graders in a souvenir shop? Needless to say, it ended with the majority of the children being led out of the shop... sad, angry and some, even, kicking and screaming. I don't think I want to do that again, anytime soon!

We also went to a science center. We walked around, saw the exhibits, then saw a movie in the I-MAX theater. We had a good time... until, the dreaded souvenir shop. A plastic bin of T-rex eggs (not real ones), magic sand, astronaut ice-cream (ick! Give me the REAL stuff!), books and magazines on science-related material, etc. The kids, this time, were a bit older, so no major problems here. We made it out of that one alive!

I went to many pro baseball games growing up, and there was never a shortage of souvenirs here. The pennants (which I had a few of)... emblazoned with the team colors, mascot and name. You weren't a real fan without a pennant! T-shirts, programs, tickets, misc. other oddities. I remember people actually keeping the programs and tickets. I believe, we trashed ours. I wonder what they thought of us!

Not too long ago, my son went on another field trip... something involving science. He brought home a tiny, plastic, see-through box, with several, tiny rocks inside. I asked him what they were. He gave me the scientific names, of course, and I just nodded. I asked what he was going to do with these special "rocks," and he admitted he didn't know. This was a handful of months ago (the trip), and I guarantee... if I were to ask my son where these rocks are, he wouldn't have a clue!

Then, a couple of days ago, he came home with a little, glass bottle filled with what looks like gold Rolo (you know... the candy?) wrappers, torn in pieces... floating in water. Hmmmmm? I asked what it was, and he said, 24 kt. gold! Uuuuuuh... yeah! Right. Anyhow... it is sitting on the computer desk as I type. Maybe it's here just begging me to wonder what the heck it is?! Who knows. All I know, is... it makes my son happy.

In the end, I think- like our parents before us- we buy these kitchy, little trinkets because our kids love them. Many of the souvenirs we see these days are just odd and have no, real purpose. For our children, though, they give them one more chance to just be a kid a while longer. They provoke feelings of nostalgia, memories of things we've done and opportunities to use our imaginations (yes... I mean us parents, too!). So... at the end of the day, does it really matter, one way or another, whether we do or we don't buy/or collect these pieces of time? Probably not... so long as we don't go overboard and over budget. Afterall... haven't we all yearned for, hoped for, dreamed of days gone by... the lazy, carefree, FUN days of childhood?


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