The longer that I am on this Earth, the more I understand collecting souvenirs. The Meriam-Webster Dictionary describes a souvenir as “something kept as a reminder.” I have my fair share of souvenirs that I have collected through the years from hunting and fishing trips, baseball games, and vacations around the country. Some have monetary value, some have sentimental value, but all have value. Then, there is a different type of souvenir. The kind that you cannot touch.
I mentioned above about having souvenirs of all types. I’ve got deer heads, skulls, and horns on the wall that remind me of a lot of different hunts. I’ve got a fish that I caught when I was 4 years old that is mounted and on my wall thirty years later. I’ve got baseballs galore, ranging from home runs to games that I pitched in that our team won. I’ve got shirts and hats from places in and out of the United States that we’ve visited. This is probably standard for most any American that played sports and had the opportunity to travel a little. However, some of the most special souvenirs that I will ever collect might be the untouchable kind. I’m talking about the memories that you create in the midst of friends and family. I was recently asked what my favorite single moment of my coaching career was. It didn’t take me long to answer that watching our centerfielder, Adrian Brown, slide safely passed the catcher in the bottom of the 9th inning to send our team to its first college world series since 1978. The definition of souvenir says “something kept as a reminder,” but what about a memory? Couldn’t a memory be considered a souvenir as well? The mounts in my house will tarnish with time and the ink on all of those baseballs will fade. Lord willing, the memories in my mind will stay with me until I draw my last breath.
We recently had another death in our family, bringing a generation one more step away from being completely gone. As I walked back into my house upon hearing the news, I began to think of how fortunate I’ve been to have shared time with many friends and family members that have passed. As I walked through the hallway and passed the room where my wife lets me hang my hunting and fishing treasures, well out of view from any visitors that may enter our home, it hit me. My entire life has been comprised of souvenirs that I take with me each day. The music I listen to was largely influenced by my great aunt, that passed today, and my great uncle that passed a year ago. Much to the dismay of my colleague, Eric Ebers, they made sure I attended my first Bob Dylan concert back in the early 90s. Now he must suffer through listening to “Blowin’ In the Wind” on occasion. A souvenir for both of us. The fact that I could probably get a clinical diagnosis for OCD comes from my late grandfather, that washed his vehicle each weekend, whether it had been driven or not. A souvenir that probably drives my wife and children crazy. I mentioned in a previous blog my love for the outdoors came from my mom’s brother and her uncle. My love of baseball came from my dad. With all of these people, and so many more, I have created memories that I carry around each day as souvenirs.
I believe that John Prine, whom we lost this year as well, said it best in one of his songs. “Memories, they can’t be boughten. They can’t be won at carnivals for free. It took me years to get those souvenirs, and I don’t know how they slipped away from me.” Aunt Sandra and Uncle John, thank you for the souvenirs. I will forever cherish them and the ones I pick up along the way.