Travel Momento: the fox mug

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When is a mug not a mug? When it’s the embodiment of many of your favorite childhood travel memories.

My Grossmama (grandmother) passed away seven years ago. She was Swiss, and being so, was as highly organized and efficient as the country’s famous rail system. She had identified all of her prized possessions and heirlooms before her passing, and had labelled who was going to receive each item. The disbursements went like Swiss clockwork; orderly and according to her pre-ordained plan.

As my mother finished cleaning up her mother’s apartment, she phoned to ask if there was anything that remained that I might want. I asked if the fox mug had been spoken for or given to someone. It hadn’t, so I asked her to bring it home for me.

The fox mug is a simple, decades-old piece of English Staffordshire pottery. It’s not made of gold, or worth much. Nobody was chosen to receive it in the will.

But I wanted the fox mug. For a number of highly personal reasons that speak to the value of memories, and how they can live in surprising, seemingly banal momentos.

The fox mug symbolizes so much to me: visiting my Grossmama in Bern on annual summer holidays in Switzerland; drinking Ovomaltine (Ovaltine) at breakfast along with freshly baked gipfeli (croissants) from the bakery down the road; of watching her knit pairs of socks for us to take home; of hearing five different church bells chime the hour every hour; of the creaky wooden floors in her large apartment, and how my brother and I always had to be quiet ‘for the people downstairs.’

The fox mug reminds me of how lucky (even spoiled) I was to have been able to visit my Grossmama overseas every summer. I didn’t appreciate at the time what that must have entailed for my family.

But I do know how much I treasure the fox mug. When all of my childhood travel memories rush back every time I look at it, sitting in its Canadian home, in a treasured place in the china cabinet. I go back to a very happy place.

Do you have a special travel momento? Share your story in the comments below.

Claudia Laroye
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