Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Places I disremember

Mom collected spoons and pennants to mark our path around the globe.

I guess because they travel well. I never asked.

The spoons may still be sitting in their little slots atop the antique hutch Mom and Dad bought long, long ago in England. The slots were part of the furniture, high atop the hutch, made expressly for displaying commemorative spoons.

I guess spoons were a thing. Maybe they still are; maybe they're still for sale in every gift shop, tiny sugar spoons with an enamel emblem of the respective city or landmark, embedded at the end of the handle. I've never looked.

Pennants were the ideal souvenir: Inexpensive and durable. No one's going to play with a pennant. It's going on the wall, as soon as we get home.

The pennants cover walls of my office now, tacked haphazardly, mostly filling empty space. That's better than leaving them to moulder in the box where I found them, but not much better.

I am an ungrateful former child.

The pennants offer an incomplete and uneven narrative of my childhood. I don't remember half of what the pennants represent, and retain only odd memories for most of the rest, and remember one, maybe two, with lingering regret.

For some reason I have two Disneyland pennants, one in red and white, one in blue in gold. I'll bet one of them is my sister's; I'll bet they were the reason for quite a fight. She is welcome to one of them, and I'm old enough and magnanimous enough not to care which.

Disneyland holds mixed memories. I was sick there a couple of visits. I lost the group of high school seniors I was hanging around with on our grad night trip, and wandered the park at night among strangers, all my age. Disneyland is ideal for young adults with no particular place to go and no concern for long lines, no passion for this ride or that, and a bit of curiosity about what the park includes that doesn't include rides. I went there once in that scenario, and once again when our children were little and grandparents could go.

I have seen Disneyland in every possible reasonable combination. Time to cross it off my list.

We didn't take our children to the Trees of Mystery Park or the Sea Lion Caves, and I'm not sure that was a bad choice. I think I enjoyed them, but what I remember most is that by coincidence when I was a kid we camped alongside — and went to the same attractions at the same time — as a family from Hawthorne, Calif. (home of Mattel™® and Hot Wheels®™, I'll always remember) for the better part of the week. That family included kids our age. It got funnier each time we met up.

The Sea Lion Caves involves an elevator that takes visitors into a giant cave opening to the ocean, echoing with sea lion barking. I've been suspicious since that the sea lions we saw were pinniped mannequins, and the barking came from hidden public-address speakers, for the days when no actual sea lions appear.

We didn't take our kids to Glacier National Park, either, and I regret that often. Glacier is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen; even though I haven't seen that many places, I'd still put Glacier at the top. It also still has glaciers, for the time being. I'm glad our parents took us. I hope our
kids get to go on their own, soon.

My pennants include the 1974 World's Fair (in the city where I was born, Spokane, and the last big family reunion we had). I spent the entirety of it practicing a sleight-of-hand trick I learned from the TV show "The Magician," starring Bill Bixby. So obsessed was I in mastering the trick, I would run into strangers at the fair, and lose my family. I also remember Up with People! there, and wonder why I can't forget.

Do we even have World's Fairs any more?

I own multiple pennants from Los Berros Elementary School, the only school in the suburban enclave where I grew up. Some of these pennants must be my sister's too. Berros, in Spanish, are watercress. I never saw any watercress growing up, or didn't recognize it if I did. We were the Broncos, I think. I was there until third grade, then went to a school clear out to the other side of town until junior high. As far as I know, I didn't get a pennant from that school.

Most of the pennants are made of starched felt. Bend it, and it's finished: It will never lose that crease. I have a homemade pennant for when I played on the Expos in Senior Little League. Of all the Major League team names available, Expos was chosen for ours. I guess it was cooler then. Apparently we won a championship. Mostly I remember it was my first year on the big diamond, and hard to adjust to the longer throws. My knees acted up during puberty, so I could no longer play catcher, my favorite spot.

I remember we players were called in to testify at a Little League hearing about our coaches. I thought it was because the coaches worked us too hard, and made us run dozens of laps when we lost, but maybe it was about something else, which I didn't fathom then or now.

I remember going to Knott's Berry Farm and the Movieland Wax Museum, and the Lewis and Clark Cavern (strange elevator, like so many church pews stacked vertically, that lifted us to the cavern mouth). I don't remember going to the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena; I think an aunt gave me that.

The pennants from Europe are smaller, sturdier, some even made of silk. I have pennants from the Vatican, Paris, Stratford on Avon, Milan (where our son just visited) and Venice and Amsterdam and Heidelberg and Holland and Aberdeen.

I remember nothing of these places, being just so much high-maintenance baby baggage for my folks to lug around while they tramped about Europe, courtesy of the Air Force.

Did our kids get any pennants? I don't think so. It skipped a generation: Our children are giving them to me.

Our son got me a pennant for when he went to spring training in Arizona to watch the San Francisco Giants a few years back.

Our daughter made many pennants for a video shoot at the production company where we interned.

They hold new memories, clear and unambiguous.

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