Souvenirs might make great gifts

My neighbor planned to be on vacation for several weeks to visit her parents out-of-state. Susan gave me the key to her house before she left so I could watch over her property, tend her house plants, and use her swimming pool. When she returned home, she called and invited me over for a cup of coffee.

As we sat, Susan summed up her trip. “We were on the go every minute. I can’t believe I have to go back to work tomorrow!” Perhaps you’ve said the same thing. Then, she handed me several gifts for having watched her home in her absence. One package contained two huge coffee mugs with ‘The Sunshine State’ logo and alligator handles. The large package contained, of all things, a plastic pink flamingo.

“You really want me to ruin the neighborhood with this on my lawn?!” I laughed.

Wrapped in the last package was a seashell wind chime. How did I get so lucky?

Although souvenirs are keepsakes meant to bring back memories of your travels, they are often given as gifts. My favorite souvenirs are often found in remote places on back roads -newsstands, flea markets, tackle shops, grocery stores, variety stores and good, old-fashioned general stores. I find these out-of-the-way places to be treasure troves of unique and special mementos.

In the past, I searched for items that had the name of a city or state emblazoned on it, lest I forget where I had traveled. For example, sachets and pillows stuffed with either balsam needles or potpourri; t-shirts, sweatshirts, potholders and trivets. You can bring home the fresh, clean scent of the forest when you burn balsam scented incense cones in an incense burner shaped like a miniature log cabin. That’s a useful souvenir.

Tourist-y souvenirs often have themes centered around whatever it is that makes that area a tourist spot. In New England, you come across a lot of forest, lobster, fish, moose and lighthouse souvenirs, while across the country, say in the San Francisco area, you’d be more likely to find Golden Gate Bridge coffee mugs or ‘Escaped from Alcatraz’ hats.

Foolish and silly souvenirs are found in every state. I’ve seen items with a nasty looking Black Fly and the caption ‘State Bird.’

Last time I looked, none of the 50 states actually has the black fly as its state bird. For those of you who don’t know what a black fly is, think of it as a mosquito on steroids. A swarm of black flies can make your life pretty miserable if you work outdoors and they are biting. Enough said!

Someone somewhere got the novel idea to market Maine’s state animal, the moose. Now its droppings are turning up as jewelry! Speaking of jewelry, my mother was wearing an intriguing necklace and I asked, “Where’d you get that?”

“Do you like it?” My mother has a way of answering a question with a question.

“It’s really unique,” was my safe answer.

“It’s porcupine jewelry made with real quills. I got it at a Native American festival.”

“Where do jewelers get porcupine quills?”

“I heard that people will pull over on the side of the road when they see a dead porcupine and pluck its quills.”

Hmmm, I’m thinking that certainly makes a unique souvenir gift.

What about all those regional foods as souvenirs? Salt water taffy, needhams, gallon jugs of maple syrup, cajun spices, sourdough bread starters, wines and so much more. As long as there are tourists and visitors ‘from away.’ it seems the demand for souvenirs and mementos means good business, no matter how foolish and silly.

By far, my favorite souvenirs come from entrepreneurs who have taken the wood siding from barns being torn down and painted humorous sayings on them. I have several of these ,and they hang on the wall near my husband’s workbench. I don’t know which one of the sayings is my favorite.

One plaque says:

“Ma loved Pa.

Pa loved women.

Ma caught Pa with 2 in swimmin.’

Here lies Pa.”

Another says:

“Missing: Husband and Cat. 25 cent reward for cat.”

These hang below the painted barn board that simply states ‘Dad’s Workshop.’

The workbench is in our garage, and we often leave the garage door up. When neighbors come to visit and either my husband or I are at the workbench, we invite them to pull up a chair while we fix whatever it is that needs mending. Our plaques have started many conversations about funny plaques. One neighbor thinks he’s seen a plaque to beat all plaques.

“Yessir,” he said, rocking back in his chair and scratching under his cap. “I saw a plaque on the door of an outhouse a while ago that still sticks in my mind. It said: “Paw’s Pad, When Maw’s Mad.”

Can you beat that?

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