A Remembrance of Teaspoons Past

It’s innate. A part of the human condition that is near impossible to resist. Hard-wired into our souls is a need to accumulate and preserve both for posterity and ensure that those who lease storage units for money will never be without income. Personally, I reckon the urge to collect is one of the few remaining remnants of our ‘hunter / gatherer’ phase. Just as a crocodile reminds us of a prehistoric age, so too does our desire to gather take us back to a time when our knuckles hung a little closer to the ground. It’s in our nature to collect souvenirs.

No family holiday was considered complete without a trip to the gift shop. These were always the last stop before the exit and the task was to find something in less ten minutes. It was kind like a discount version of The Hunger Games. The gift shop is where we were set free to roam, with the strict expectation that we were using the time wisely to select something that would store this family event forever in our memories. There was, naturally, a strict spending limit. I can’t recall if it was five dollars or a little more, or if the rules of the free market applied and we were compelled to use our pocket money. I only know that choosing was a lot of pressure.

It’s worth pointing out that I have two younger brothers and two younger sisters. Whenever we were set loose on a gift store, I could never escape the sneaking suspicion that none of them felt terrified at the prospect of having ten minutes to choose a gift. In fact, they relished it. They would move between the aisles with both pace and purpose as I wandered aimlessly in the vague hope that a suitable item would simply walk up, tap me on the shoulder and introduce itself rather than me having to make a decision.

My sisters often went for stuffed toys. When the destination was a zoo, there was never a shortage of soft-plumed creatures to choose from. Largely, these have been left behind, but I suspect that many of them continue to lurk in various cupboards and toy boxes in my father’s house, waiting to be rediscovered. With the benefit of hindsight, soft toys were an excellent choice. A reminder of a great day / excursion / holiday, those toys provided years of comfort. They served both the present and the past.

The youngest of the brothers often gravitated towards a t-shirt. He was happy to declare go the world at large that he had been to Sovereign Hill, Sea World, Kryal Castle or the Zoo. Given the chance, he’d have worn a t-shirt that he’d just been to the Milk Bar and picked up a Wizz Fizz, had such an item of apparel existed. As souvenirs go, t-shirts could only ever be temporary as my brother was, then, still growing at a speed that could almost been seen by with the naked eye. I, however, didn’t feel comfortable with this level of disclosure.

My other brother had a knack for the unexpected. When it came to picking something from the gift shop, he’d always select something completely fantastic that gave scant regard to the five-dollar limit. He was then and remains now, incredibly persuasive. Clutching the object firmly in his hand, he’d cajole my father for what seemed like hours. He’d also come up with all manner of ingenious financial solutions to secure his desired purchase. It’s enough to say that he remains the only person I’ve ever known to negatively gear a BMX for greater financial leverage. If only the bike in question had been his and not mine, it would have been fair enough.

Souvenirs weren’t just for kids. My father was also an enthusiastic participant. However, for him there was no dark night of the soul as he tried to decide between a t-shirt emblazoned with the words, ‘I Went To The Big Pineapple And All I Got Was This Lousy T-shirt’ and a coffee cup that claims to be ‘handcrafted’ but was, in fact, mass produced in Thailand. Not at all. My father is a spoon man. He collects souvenir teaspoons, the best of which are displayed on a special rack just outside the kitchen. They represent some of the world’s most exotic locations, like Dubbo, Port Lincoln and Launceston.

Recently, my father went to Europe. I have, just now, received a souvenir of his journey. It’s safe to say that, despite my history of indecision, it’s not something I’d have chosen for myself. Indeed, it’s not something anyone would choose for themselves. It’s a kitchen mitt with the word ‘Portugal’ and what looks to be the Nando’s chicken on holidays on it. Whilst it’s intended use is to ensure the safe handling of hot items from the oven, I strongly suspect that to try and use the mitt in this manner would result in burns of the most severe kind. I’d have preferred a spoon.

Recently, I found myself at Sovereign Hill. It’s a long story as to why; suffice to say I’ve since had stern words with my Sat Nav. But wandering through the exhibits, I couldn’t help but think of earlier trips with my brothers and sisters as we frolicked up and down the dirt streets as though there was a prize for seeing everything in the shortest possible time. Naturally, we left through the gift shop. I didn’t get anything. I didn’t need to. Turns out I still remember.