I am terribly envious of people who manage to, during their stays abroad, pick up souvenirs that they later display in their salons. I have seen many collections – African, Egyptian, Indonesian, Indian …and had mentally resolved to, god willing, one day, have a collection of my own.
Well, three years and umpteen trips later, I too have a collection of my own but not quite the one I had envisaged.
A print of an old map of France with the various nobilities marked out, so creased and dented from being in a suitcase that I suspect it quite looks like the real thing instead of a mere print!
A lamb wool carpet from Crete (or so the lady selling it said and I have to take her word for it since I cant distinguish between goat or lamb wool), which I have rarely used for fear of it becoming dirty. Once I took it out when a friend came for lunch and promptly stepped on it and left black shoe polish streaks. A was highly amused since I didn’t let him step on it making him tiptoe on the edges (the big carpet swallowed up our tiny floor space leaving very little room around to tiptoe on).
Wrapped up in the carpet is a terracotta plaque of a fresco from the Palace of King Minos at Knossos, too delicate, I am paranoid it will break before I find some place to hang it...which doesn’t seem to be a possibility in the near future. Then there is the coin box shaped like the house of Claude Monet but frankly I could pass it off as the house of anyone - Marie Antoinette or Napolean and no one will be wiser out here. 2 paintings - the first a large old advertisement of Chocolat meunier with a bright eyed young girl staring...very chic and tres french but no place to hang it up, as yet. Same problem with a Chinese painting on a some sort of a leaf with a very heavy frame, which I very happily bought but now, am not so sure about it. Whoever heard of anyone buying a mass-produced Chinese painting bought in France?
And to finish, the coup de grace! An umbrella but not just any old umbrella! A bright yellow, hundred percent original tour de France umbrella which I picked up not at any store selling tour de France memorabilia but at the tour itself last year when it came to my town for the first (and I suspect the last) time. A in one of his expansive moods, nearly gifted it away to a relative and I had to summon up all my guts to intervene. No, no, not that please. Take anything else...but not that umbrella. It’s very precious to me. But having said all that (and felt very bad for being possessive about an umbrella for heavens sake), I am like the dog in the manger. I haven’t been able to use it yet although I never forget to carry an umbrella every time I step out of the house. It’s a very large umbrella (a tad smaller than a golf umbrella). I have these horrific visions of me striding down the road with it with little kids yelling and trailing after me (like when a circus comes to town) followed by stray dogs nipping at my heels and barking their heads off!
And if the past trend is a sign of things to come, then it foretells more shifting and living out of suitcases for us.
After my French sejour, I don’t own a single "Chat Noir" poster or the Jane Avril posters by Toulous Lautrec, although my gifts grace the homes of a few friends and relatives. I don’t even have the Claude Monet / Van Gogh coasters, not a single Eiffel tower key chain or I love Paris T-shirt. But I do have my umbrella, the old print and the French advertisement which I occasionally take out of my suitcase and stare and put it back like some art collectors who keep their art works in vaults and stare at them in secret?
I live in the hope that perhaps one day in the future, some one will discover these 'relics' of a bygone age from a dusty suitcase and marvel and fight over great grandma's wonderful, if a bit strange collection!