Saturday, November 8, 2008


As I was creating Christmas displays at Borders, a song popped into my head, and it's stayed with me, cause it's message is so very fitting to what happened on Wednesday.

Billy Joel's "Souvenir"

A picture postcard, A folded stub
A program of the play.
File away your photographs
Of your holiday.

And your mementos will turn to dust
But that's the price you pay
For every year's a souvenir
That slowly fades away.

Every call I got on Wednesday was someone eagerly wanting a NYTimes or an AJC or the new edition of Time or Newsweek, all special election editions with Obama on the front cover. Anything with a picture. If Obama was on Tiger Beat, they would have bought it. Basking in the afterglow of the election victory, the Democrats turned to find something to remember it by. And, as our free market system works, we are only to happy to oblige. It makes sense, from selling pieces of Yankee Stadium, to parts of the Berlin Wall, papers and magazines of various events. My grandfather kept editions of the Daily Oklahoman where JFK was shot, Eisenhower into office, and we have them down in our basement, rotting away.

And that's just the point. The need to have a piece of history, to hold something tangible of a memory, fades as the thought does. New events come up, new layers of geologic time that stacks up in our brains, pressing it into layers soon forgotten. Yes, a momento will bring up that memory, digging it up as some precious fossil. But even those decay. Photographs fade and yellow, as do newspapers. What once was thought to be an important milestone in the history of mankind turns out to be little more than a speedbump. What happened to all the '96 Olympic pins and accessories, that were once displayed proudly in every store window? They are now in drawers, shelves, in cabinets and boxes, filed away with the rest of the souvenirs we pick up in life. What makes anyone think that the election of Obama would not be the same thing.

I would say the same thing if McCain were elected or for any other major event. Sure, I've bought mementos in my life. The death of Reagan, the last episode of Johnny Carson, the release of Star Wars, Episode 1. But I couldn't tell you where any of those things are. Even the photographs I have, as I look back at them, were just of places, and not of people. The few of people I have I've shared with them.

Perhaps that's the answer to this. The memories that we have of events in our lives will fade, and the souvenirs that we have collected, weighing us down as if a house stood on a turtle's back, will be forgotten. It's the people we love that are important. The relationships of the people that are around us that is more important than the stuff we have. And I think, to some extent, we have forgotten that. The birthday present is not as important as the love that was put into it from the person that gave it. The letter written, the photo taken, the video captured. They are important only in the sense that behind them was (or is) a person that we cared about. Everything else is just souvenirs, that will slowly fade away.

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