I collect souvenir spoons. I can explain.

In the United States, the collection of souvenir spoons dates back to the mid-1800s (the first American souvenir spoon, produced in the late 1800s, was fitted with the profile of George Washington). By the time the Chicago World’s Fair arrived in 1893 with its 27 million visitors, spoon collecting had become a hobby. It’s impossible to say what spoon collectors thought a century ago, but I like to imagine that back then too it was a form of ambitious travel, achieved through gift giving. friends and family. Perhaps these armchair travelers were perhaps no different from the toddler waiting at home for his spoon to arrive and the world to unfold through the magic of finely etched silver or nickel. I felt then, as I do now, that these spoons, with their careful embellishments, displayed a level of artistry that other memorabilia could not match. I loved the scalloped edges of the Windsor spoon and the car atop the Detroit one – details that brought me joy in a way that a gift shop shirt or a flask filled with pink sand of a tropical beach has ever done.

From 1988 to 1998, I flew between Boston’s Logan Airport and New York’s LaGuardia every other weekend, a regular route carved out of me by divorce. Altogether, that was about 108,000 miles flown in total, without a single scoop purchased at either airport. Instead, I have spoons from other places, while living far from one parent or the other.

I found my collection of spoons recently, following a move. They were still in their cabinets, which were never quite right, so I ordered the appropriate ones with hitched notches, designed specifically for them. Long ago, when my father delivered these spoons to me, he was, as I saw, promising something – that we would see these places together. Finally, I promised something in return.

My father retired at 54 with the intention of traveling the world. At 55, he was diagnosed with ALS; at 57, he was dead. In the last weeks of his life, I asked him to tell me about the places on his to-do list. At that point, we both knew he wouldn’t live long enough to see the Canadian Rockies, the cliffs of Ireland, the beautiful green-lipped sea of ​​New Zealand. Shortly after his death, I booked a solo flight to Auckland – a destination he had shown me on the computer, after speech had become impossible. I brought his ashes with me. I did not buy a spoon.

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