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Prompted By Memorabilia

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I have so much memorabilia that I don’t even know where to start writing about it. If I ever have to move, I can’t imagine how I will sift through it all. Looking at the two choices given in the blurb for this prompt, I had to laugh: Have you displayed your memorabilia in frames or is it collecting dust in storage? Answer: Neither one. It is collecting dust all over the house.

I have so much memorabilia that I don't even know where to start writing about it.

Am I a hoarder? I don’t think so. But I do have an awful lot of “favorite things” that I can’t part with.


Baby shoes – my own, in the original box, labeled in my mother’s handwriting. Three more boxes of baby shoes, for each of my kids – I kept thinking that the next baby could wear the shoes of the previous one, but they all had different size feet when they started walking. I also have their first little sandals. And a pair of ruby slippers, a la Judy Garland, that I think both of my daughters wore.

My first bikini, that I wore in about 1965, that some relative had brought back from Greece. Very skimpy! Not really one of my favorite things, now that I think about it.

Formal dresses from both my high school prom and high school graduation, which couldn’t possibly fit me now. Also my wedding gown, which nobody else in the family is going to want to wear. On the other hand, I have the bridesmaid outfit that one of my sisters wore at my wedding, which was a long velvet skirt and ruffled blouse, and I have worn the skirt twice recently with different tops, once to a Jane Austen tea and once to a Pirates of Penzance singalong.

My high school class ring, which I wore for the first time in decades when I went to my 50th reunion in 2018. My classmates were very impressed, because everyone else had either lost theirs, or had gained too much weight to be able to get it on their finger.

My wedding ring and my husband’s, from my first marriage, engraved with both sets of initials and the date. I wonder if either of my kids from that marriage would want them. Otherwise, I should probably have them melted down and made into something new.

Travel souvenirs:

I seldom buy souvenirs when I travel (or maybe just a t-shirt), but there have been a few memorable trips where I did. I brought back a hand-tooled leather-wrapped whiskey decanter from Spain for my parents in 1969, and now that they are both gone, I have it once again. It not only reminds me of the trip to Spain, but of my parents and how much they loved it (although I don’t think they ever put whiskey in it). I bought a caftan in Morocco in 1981, which I wore a few times after the trip, and it was useful when I was pregnant, but it gets incredibly wrinkled hanging up in the closet and has to be ironed before wearing, so I never do. I wish I had bought a rug in Morocco instead.

If I decide to look for souvenirs, I try to find ones that are functional as well as beautiful, like this trivet I got in Israel in 2009, which we use all the time. The Hebrew letters say Jerusalem. I also bought some beautiful Star of David necklaces on that trip.

And the travel souvenir that has seen the most use, for over 30 years, is a set of hand-carved wooden napkin rings from Kenya in the shape of different animals, which is the featured image. I got these on my honeymoon trip in 1983, and when the kids were little, they loved playing with them. Consequently all the sharp points have broken off of four of them – the poor crocodile (far left) lost its entire snout, and the three with horns lost all or part of their horns – but they still look cute and function well as napkin rings. And it is convenient to have them all be different, so all members of the family know which napkin is theirs.


Political buttons from the ’60s and ’70s. These are primarily, but not entirely, from the 1968 McCarthy campaign. Also including the Yippie! button that Phil Ochs gave to me in the Chicago Amphitheatre in 1968, which I have written about previously. And a button with a caricature of LBJ pulling up his shirt to show his gall bladder surgery scar.

Political posters, including this nice one from the McCarthy campaign that my parents had framed, which is why it is hanging on a wall in my house, instead of rolled up in a mailing tube like all the others.


Calendars from over the years, which commemorate all the trips, parties, rehearsals, school functions, and other miscellany of life. These have come in handy surprisingly often when I want to refresh my memory about details of a specific occasion from long ago, because they are almost like diaries. They can also be artistic. For at least the last twenty years, I have used the Mom’s Calendar, which has a column for each member of the family to write what they are doing. Often when we took a family trip, my husband would draw a scene of the place we were going, because he had the width of five columns and the length of however many days we were going to be gone. As an example, here is part of the page for June 2007, showing scenes at Stanford Sierra Camp, where we went for a week every summer. On the left are two people out on Fallen Leaf Lake in a canoe, in the front right is our minivan with a clamshell on the roof to carry all the things we needed to bring with us, and behind the minivan are a couple of the cabins with trees around them, and the Sierras in the background.

Child-related items:

I have saved wa-a-ay too much memorabilia pertaining to my children, which I am not going to discuss, beyond saying that I do have all of their baby teeth in labeled envelopes, as well as the notes they wrote to the tooth fairy, some of which I included in an earlier story. Other items may become material for future stories, or that book I am always threatening to write. But for now, kids, if you are reading this**, you are safe!

**I’m sure they are not.

Profile photo of Suzy Suzy

Characterizations: funny, right on!, well written


  1. Ear worm alert…I must have unconsciously noticed the title of your story a little earlier because I’ve been singing that song for the last hour.

    I share the “Am I a hoarder?” quandary, Suzy…I wonder where the line is. I’m most struck by the clothing, the fact that you have your own baby shoes, all your children’s baby shoes, your special gowns, but most of all, your first bikini! All I remember about mine is that I wore it before I had any breasts to hold it in place, and once when I raised my arms to take off my coverup at the beach, the top went up with it. (I probably could have saved that for the Embarrassment prompt, but sadly, I can top it…no pun intended.)

    The napkin rings are beautiful and priceless…the missing bits actually add to the intrinsic value of them. They’re reminders of not only Kenya (one of my favorite places on earth) but each of your family members. Definitely not something you can ever part with!

    Those calendars are definitely keepers, especially with the drawings. Some of my favorite artists have made wonderful art using their calendars, diaries and journals as the basis; one of my favorites was collage artist Peter Beard, who died fairly recently. And coincidentally, he lived in Africa for many years. You could always make a collage! Or better yet, write that book!!

    • Suzy says:

      Thank you so much for this lovely and detailed comment – and for sharing my “Am I a hoarder” quandary! As to the bikini, I didn’t have any breasts to hold it in place either, but somehow I managed to avoid the embarrassing incident you describe. (And I love the pun that you can “top” that 🙂 )

      I do love my napkin rings, even with all the horns and snouts missing. I also have a carved rhinoceros (not a napkin ring) whose horn is broken off, which I figure is symbolic of the poaching problem! And glad you think the calendars are keepers too. They have helped me remember many important events. Now that there are only 2 of us at home instead of 5, I’m not sure I need to keep getting the Mom’s Calendar with its 5 columns. Maybe a conventional calendar will do next year.

  2. Marian says:

    Suzy, you made it with the story, congrats. Now I understand the effort because you have so much memorabilia. I think it’s great that you kept calendars in particular. Your story prompted me to remember I do have some travel items, special clothing, and ceramics that are meaningful. Looks like it’s time for a memorabilia catalog.

    • Suzy says:

      As you know, I was having a hard time getting this story finished. I actually ended up deleting several paragraphs about other types of memorabilia (yes, can you believe it, there’s more!), because they just weren’t that interesting. I’m very happy that my story prompted you to take a look at some other items that you have, and even make a catalog.

  3. Brava Suzy! Altho I’m the purging type, I excuse you and Barbara for maintaining your enormous memorabilia collections as you both use and cherish them!

    Now if you had letters the tooth fairy wrote BACK to your kids, those might even be valuable!

  4. John Shutkin says:

    I should have figured that you were a great “saver” (sounds better than “hoarder”) when you included a page of a boring, newsy letter I had sent you some time in the mid-70’s with one of your earlier stories. You have now confirmed it beyond belief. I am in awe of both the depth/breadth of your collections and your systemic presentation of them in this story. And dare I assume that, if asked, you could expand the story into book length?

    I find it very difficult to chose my favorite among your collections; they are all pretty amazing in their own different ways. But, if I had to, I think I would choose the “Mom’s Calendars” (something I had never even heard of) that you maintained for over twenty years. I would kill if I had such a record of my family’s trips over the years. To me, that is the very essence of what memorabilia should be.

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks John, but that letter of yours that I included in my Snail Mail story was NOT boring – at least I don’t think it was, your handwriting is a little hard to read. 🙂 As I mentioned in my comment to Marian, I wrote a lot more initially, describing still more collections. I ended up deleting the parts that seemed like more of a catalogue than a story. So even if I could expand this story to book length, I’m not sure anyone would want to read it.

      Glad you like the calendars, they were invaluable to keep our 5-person household organized, and now they are full of great memories.

  5. Betsy Pfau says:

    Suzy, I am TOTALLY with you about saving all sorts of stuff, which made this prompt a bit difficult for me too. I have “special” outfits dating back more than 40 years (I even have one outfit of my mother’s; I will never wear it, but it was special, I went to a lot of trouble to buy it for her and she looked elegant in it), I have jewelry from my childhood (not my class ring – that was stolen by a crazy nanny – not the one from Barbados who we think was a call girl, but the next one). I have kept a record/date book dating back to my college years, so can tell you what happened each day (not a full diary, just what movie we saw, doctor appointment, dinner with friends, stuff like that) for the past 50 years, which has certainly helped with these Retro stories. I’ve kept some stuff from my children, but probably not as much as you kept. I have every program of every play (even student directed) I saw in college. My Bridal Book. Music and programs from every concert from 16 years in the Newton Community Chorus. Old LPs, and of course, my old photos. Yes, lots of STUFF!

    Are we hoarders? We just like our memories, I suspect. You’ve shared with us how you’ve repurposed some of your clothing for costume events (very clever!). I bought very good clothing, back in the day. After I took off weight and got in shape, 8 years ago, I fit back into the suit I wore to David’s bar mitzvah – 22 years ago – and have gotten a LOT of wear out of it recently. It was a classic style and I continue to enjoy it. I’d call that thrifty.

    I am not a souvenir buyer, but I love the napkin rings you brought back from Kenya. Those are functional, beautiful and you USE them. The small damage just means they have been used and loved and, as Barbara said, makes them more precious. They are unique.

    I appreciate everything you’ve saved and what it all means to you. Let’s raise a glass to the collectors!

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks, Betsy, you are my kindred spirit in so many ways! I knew you would relate to my saving all this stuff, although I have seen your house and it is A LOT neater than mine! You must have a better storage system. You also remind me of more memorabilia I didn’t even think about – I have music and programs from lots of concerts too, and a floor-to-ceiling bookcase filled with old LPs.

      Can’t wait til we can get together to raise a glass to the collectors!

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    Suzy, I had to LOL over your opening paragraph of having memorabilia collecting dust all over your house. Me too. When we moved earlier this month, much of it followed me and my office/computer room is filled with all manner of “stuff.” My kids made me toss the baby teeth, which they thought were gross. As we put things away in our new kitchen, my husband and I remarked about how many things were from trips we took with good friends who always encouraged us to buy special souvenirs. I still don’t know what to do with some of them, but they followed me here. I really related to your story. Thanks for sharing it.

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks Laurie, ever since the Get Organized prompt back in January we have known which Retro writers were savers and which ones were tossers. We savers had a lot more material for this prompt! Glad you survived your move with your sanity intact and you still have all manner of “stuff.” It would be a shame to lose it all just because you moved to a smaller place.

  7. Oh my! So many things, so much “stuff” (Viewing note: look at the classic Carlin bit on “Stuff”) But yes, looking at our accumulated Meaningful Possessions from time to time and pulling back associated memories is wonderful, especially with artifacts that we’ve forgotten about. And those that prompt a “what was I thinking?” reaction. But it makes me wonder: if I had only a limited time to rescue a limited number of things in the face of something like an approaching fire, would I save any of it? Would you?

    • Suzy says:

      Well, that’s the question to ask, isn’t it. And Risa lived that scenario with the Oakland fire of ’91. I don’t know what I would save, but it might not be any of the things I wrote about in this story. Hope I never have to make that decision.

      • I’m not sure I would save anything. To me there’s a deliberate transience to memorabilia. Wonderful touchstones of memory but I can still generate the memories without them. At least for now. And on a practical level, in the event of a fire I would have to remember where I put them!

  8. What a great catalog of memories! It sure is hard to part with baby shoes–when I was cleaning out my mother’s house, I found mine, neatly covered in what looked like layer upon layer of white shoe polish. And I still use the Mom’s calendar every year, finding a child’s joy in choosing the stickers. As long as there is room in the house, why not fill it with treasures? The time will come when we really have to part with most of it, and we really should start sifting through it, but . . . not today. Like Scarlett O’Hara, we can think about it tomorrow.

    • Suzy says:

      Thank you Joan, what a great comment! Nice to know that you use the Mom’s Calendar too, with those wonderful Sandra Boynton illustrations and stickers. You and I think so much alike, clearly we will have to meet some day!

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