"" Writer's Wanderings: My Grandparents Bought Me This T-Shirt

Friday, February 19, 2010

My Grandparents Bought Me This T-Shirt

This is a column I wrote for Positively Feminine.org. It's one of my favorites:

We have all seen them. They hang in the souvenir shops of every tourist stop. “My grandparents visited [you name the place] and all I got was this T-shirt.” I don’t usually buy a lot of souvenirs for my grandkids when we are traveling. There’s not a lot of room in the suitcase for six, and soon to be seven, trinkets. But on occasion I do try to bring back something that will satisfy their curiosity when they express an interest in where Grandma and Grandpa are going.

On our “once in a lifetime” cruise to Antarctica, I tried to find something that was symbolic or educational to bring home to our young grandchildren. Tyler, the oldest, was four years old at the time and was the only one who had a little understanding of where we were going.
“How cold are the icebergs? Can you walk on them? Does it snow all the time?”

I was desperate to find something that would peak his interest and lend to his education. Trust me. There are not a lot of souvenir shops in Antarctica and bringing back a baby penguin was out of the question. In the ship’s gift shop, I found fleece vests with Antarctica embroidered on the back. The girls, I knew, would enjoy the clothes, but no so Tyler. I bought one for him anyway just to have something to give him.

Back home, as I unpacked the vests, I remembered all his questions about icebergs and snow. I stared out the window at the heavy snow that was falling as I anticipated our visit with him and his sister. Like an avalanche, the idea struck me. Why not give him an iceberg for his souvenir—a mini-iceberg!

Wading out into the snow, I packed a large plastic container with the white stuff, snapped a lid on it and set it in the freezer for our visit.

At Tyler’s house that weekend, the fleece vest got tossed over his head as I anticipated. (His father did the same thing with gifts that were clothes.) Then I pulled out my special souvenir. His eyes widened and he took the mini-iceberg from me and set it on the floor in front of him.
“It’s so cool, Grandma!”

He and Danielle took little penguins from one of their toy collections and played with them on the iceberg and before he went to bed that night, he had to float it in the bathtub with him. He was careful not to let it melt too much (already he was learning about global warming) and it went back into the freezer for another day.

Souvenirs don’t mean a whole lot to others, especially children, if they haven’t experienced the place they came from. When the souvenir is something that will impart a little knowledge or understanding of another place, it becomes much more valuable.

What is it you can whet your grandchild’s appetite for learning with when you look for a souvenir to bring back from vacation? It doesn’t have to cost a whole lot. Save a couple coins from a foreign country. Make a recipe from that country or region for them to taste. Find story books unique to where you visited that you can read with them. And be sure to send them a postcard!

T-shirts are usually three for ten dollars and don’t last past the second washing but a memory shared through a unique souvenir will last a lifetime.


Kathryn Page Camp said...

I don't have any grandchildren yet, but when my children were younger and I went on business trips, I would buy them keychains. Not very educational, perhaps, but small and easy to carry. And now that they are grown up and don't share vacations with us, I still buy them keychains. My husband and I also do our Christmas shopping while on vacation (even if it is February), and that does become more educational.

Wandering Writer said...

Kathryn, when my husband went on business trips (usually to trade shows) he would come home with freebies from the display tables. Could explain why our boys are into technical/computer careers ;-)

I too, do some Christmas shopping when I have room in the suitcase. Makes for unique gifts.

Thanks for your comments!

lynnmosher said...

Karen, I love your idea! What fun for the kids. Unfortunately, my 8yo granddaughter is w-a-y too smart to fall for that. However, she has two much younger half-sisters who will soon be thrilled by something like that. Thanks!

Wandering Writer said...

Lynn, Tyler told his mom that he knew it was just snow but he had fun playing along. Fond memory.

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