A. There are souvenirs. B. There is regret. And C. There are regrettable souvenirs. Case in point: the telescoping fork I brought back from Chicago. Hilarious, right? How funny to bust it out at Thanksgiving or Easter, pilfering tidbits from loved ones’ plates, right? No. Just … no. How about this? Over the weekend, I’m wandering Boston’s brownstone-lined Newbury Street with good friend Lynda Zuber-Sassi. Really, ours is less of a wander than a mission. We’ve identified a target through Yelp, after searching for book shops. “It was different from all the other little shops on Newbury,” reports one Yelp reviewer, listing fairy dust, trinkets, Alice in Wonderland memorabilia, and dragons among its merchandise. Quirky, yes, but worth a look-see? Meh. It’s another review that sways us– “Quite a selection of gnomes.” On with our boots and off to Newbury.

A sign in the window reads “Hanging with my Gnomies!” The owner is closing up for the evening, but he lets us browse a few minutes. The gnome selection is not as we expect. Alice in Wonderland seems to dominate. So I buy a magnet that reads, “We’re All Mad.” I imagine I’ll regret the purchase. My fridge isn’t even magnetic. As we’re leaving, overhead bell tinkling our departure, the owner invites us to a party in the shop at midnight. “There’ll be a special punch.”

Now two days later, I’m home and unpacking. At the bottom of a Harvard 3dddee528b9811e2982122000a1f8c32_6Bookstore bag I find the Mad Hatter magnet, and I realize I don’t regret the purchase as much as I regret missing the sounds, smells, tastes, and scenes of a strange party in a strange setting among strangers. Could have been fun. Could have been nuts. Could have worn the knee-high gnome socks already in my suitcase.  

Your turn. Go on a day trip, a road trip, a field trip. Eavesdrop. Find something new. Bring back a souvenir.* What do you take with you? What do you leave behind? Sit outside in one place until a story comes to you. 

*From Poets & Writers “The Time Is Now,” March 15, 2012


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