For almost a third of my life I was a world traveler. I kept a journal from every trip I took and made an album of all the places I went. I visited over 25 countries, and I tried to bring home a souvenir from each — everything from a Japanese yukata to a stone found on the Great Wall of China. I have a bow and arrows I bought from a Sanjo boy in Tanzania, sand from the Sahara and an Alpaca blanket from Peru. A small rug from Morocco is on my bedroom floor and I drink my morning coffee from a small mug I bought in Wales. After 36 years the 12-piece set of china I bought in England is down to six luncheon plates and two dinner plates. But I treasure each reminder of a wonderful trip I took.
My traveling days are over, but my souvenirs still remind me of exotic vistas and exciting adventures I have had. I didn’t get to every country I would like to have seen, but I have no regrets. Recently I discovered that I possess souvenirs from countries that I have never visited, that I would never have gone to had I had the chance, possessions from 18 different countries I have never set foot in.
I went through my closet, long enough to hold all the clothes I will need for the rest of my life. Jeans, lightweight summer slacks, flannel shirts from L.L.Bean, T-shirts, long-sleeved crinkle shirts, warm flannel nightgowns, cool sleeveless cotton nightgowns, two winter bathrobes, two summer bathrobes, one bathrobe to wear between seasons, soft velour tunics, colorful muumuu dresses with short sleeves to wear in summer, sleeveless muumuu dresses to wear on really hot days in summer, a long lightweight wool sweater to put over those dresses if the air conditioning makes the house too cool.
I slid open my closet door and working from the left end, looked at every label on my summer and winter clothes. I discovered that I had a Happy Coat which I actually bought in Hong Kong in 1978; it was manufactured in China. And my favorite moth-eaten wool sweater I bought from a CW catalog (long since out of business) was put together in Hong Kong. But the flowered long-sleeved shirt I bought from the Appleseed’s catalog was also made in China. And although I visited Thailand in 1988 I have a Ralph Lauren blouse I bought in Filene’s many years ago, made in Thailand.
I went to Kenya 30 years ago but didn’t buy any clothes there. I do have one item made in Kenya, a beige flannel shirt from a Woolrich catalog. Most of my flannel shirts are from China, though I do have one from Romania. My cotton bathrobe came from India, which I visited in 1989. That was when I bought a lovely sari and then discovered when I got home that it wasn’t really Vineyard attire. The thrift shop benefitted from that purchase. But Mauritius? Where is Mauritius? One of my tunics came from that unknown place. And Macau? My long-sleeved summer nightgown came from that small territory of China, close to Hong Kong.
I never considered going to Bangladesh. But I have a denim short-sleeved shirt made in that poor country. I have tunics from Jordan, Taiwan and Indonesia, T-shirts from Singapore, Viet Nam and El Salvador. My light blue fleece pullover (LL Bean!) was manufactured in Cambodia and my black polyester shirt came from Sri Lanka.
Last but not least, my underwear. My bras are from El Salvador and my panties are made in Haiti. I did find one item made in the USA — a souvenir long tunic from Palm Desert, Calif.
Is it any wonder that America has an unemployment problem?
Shirley Mayhew lives in West Tisbury.