I’m already starting to think about what to buy on our first trip to Greece at the end of August. It’s going to be hot as a blaze, and this is still slowing my shopping enthusiasm in favor of returning to the beautiful air-conditioned room for a refreshing nap, but there is always evening. Fortunately, Greece adheres to the custom of afternoon naps – a very reasonable custom, by the way – so shops are open late.
Can’t say I really need a blessed thing, but Greece is a to-do list item for me so I’m sure I’ll want to take something home for a keepsake, other than a wider waistline after eating too much baklava. And, knowing me, lots of moussaka stains on my blouses. It will probably last a long time for me as a memory. If you read my recent column, you know I bought a Montana cowboy hat. And a patch for my suitcase.
The problem is, I just don’t have room in my house, due to many previous trips abroad. These days I mostly buy textiles on vacation because (a) they’re easy to wrap (b) they don’t break and (c) you can always find something to do with them. Tablecloth? Table runner? Scarf? Shawl? Throw out whatever chair the dog won’t stay in, no matter how much serious discussion you have with him on the matter.
I don’t even know what kind of textiles they have in Greece, but they wear clothes and have blankets, so I guess I’ll find something. What I absolutely don’t need are the types of dust-proof tchotckes I bought when I first started traveling. No, I don’t need a miniature woolly sheep like the one I bought with great pleasure in Scotland. Nor a llama like the one who returned from Peru. Nor a dumb coconut turned into a monkey face. I could go on, but my mind blanked out everything else, which is probably in a box in my garage that hasn’t been opened since I moved into my house 14 years ago.
Do you remember Charles and Diana’s wedding in 1981? Yes, the children. Before you were born. It was the year of my first trip to England, and we happened to be in London the week before the Big Event. The whole country was in the grip of royal wedding fever, and there were so many souvenir stalls set up that you couldn’t walk five feet without tripping over one. That’s why I came home with a souvenir royal wedding plate of the love of Charles and Diana, to hang on the wall. Did I need this plate? No. Could I do something with this plate? No chance. I didn’t hang it anywhere. So he went into a drawer. You probably have one of these drawers, right?
It sat in that drawer for many years, until I had to attend the wedding of casual friends and forgot to buy them a present. I looked around my house frantically for what I could give them, and suddenly remembered this plate in the back of a drawer. I pulled it out, packed and took it to the wedding, happy to finally get rid of it. I thought it was a silly gift, but at least I gave them one.
Would you not know? I later get a thank you card from the bride, telling me how wonderful the plate was and how special it would be to them for years to come. So you never know where your memories will end up. But I still don’t buy any more plates.
I also no longer buy gifts to take home for my kids, as they always politely thank me and then relegate these items to the back of their closets, where they are swallowed up by closet monsters never to be seen again. . Much like I did with the ancient Roman pornographic playing card game my son brought me from Pompeii.
One thing I learned that is important, so write it down, is this: you only regret the things you didn’t buy. I repeat. You only regret the things you didn’t buy. When it comes to crafts and keepsakes, this isn’t that Coach handbag you really don’t need. Seriously. You don’t need it.
My friends and I were talking about it lately. We each had a tragic story about an item we considered purchasing on vacation, but we didn’t, and it has haunted us ever since. Haunted. Tragically. Don’t be that person.
I was in a store many years ago in Oaxaca (wa-ha-ca) Mexico specializing in wood carvings. The owner and sculptor owned a 2 foot high replica of the Archangel Michael slaying a dragon, sculpted and painted. I passed out on it. But it cost around $ 200, and I really couldn’t think of how I could get it home on the plane. So I passed.
I almost immediately regretted my decision, and a few days later my friend Ana and I took a taxi back to this little shop in the small village, precisely to buy it. But the owner was not there. Instead, his sister took care of the store. She told us that he was on a religious pilgrimage that involved hiking in a place that seemed very arduous, and she had no way of contacting him. So she didn’t want to sell it to me, because she didn’t know how much it cost.
To this day, I can’t help but think about this statue. This will be on my mind when I go to Greece, although I still plan to buy only a tablecloth and maybe a shawl. I take it you are trading in Greece, right? I am a good negotiator. Unless it’s hot. Then I just want to pay and go back to my room for theâ¦ waitâ¦ nap.