Souvenirs of the Past

~Kim Libertini

I walked into the kitchen as my youngest son, now eleven, was climbing on the counter to reach the upper cabinets. He quickly smiled and said, “What happened to those coconut bowls we had? Have you seen them?” 

The mention of those bowls take me back to shopping in the Vietnamese market for souvenirs to bring home. The memory is so vivid I can almost feel the July heat in Southeast Asia and smell the fresh spices used to make Hanoi street food. Together we had chosen these beautiful bowls. The outside was made of coconut that had been sanded smooth and the inside looked like a sparkled glass tile mosaic. I can hear Adam’s voice as we settled on which colors to pick for each of my sons.  For ourselves, we had picked these gorgeous prints on rice paper that represented a few key stops on our journey: the city of Saigon in blue, the rice paddy of the countryside in green and the capital of Hanoi in brilliant yellow. And lastly I had purchased handmade chopsticks in a delicately carved case. As we traveled through multiple airports he carried the souvenir bag. I can picture the bag as it sat under the seat of the two planes we flew on. I remember him checking to make sure we had the bag as we made it through the airports.

The trip symbolized a homecoming that was twofold.  It was my first journey home after leaving this country forty years prior at the tail end of the Vietnam war. I wish I could describe the chills of emotions that swept over me as I set foot on my homeland while standing next to the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. There are no words for that. None. For many years prior we had been on separate paths searching. Despite taking the long way, it was together where our hearts had found their home. 

     It has been six years since I really delved into those memories. Although the chopsticks now sit on my dining room table and the prints are all framed and displayed in my home, those coconut glass bowls are no longer with us.  I tell my son, “ I think the bowls cracked and weren’t safe to eat out of anymore.”  He smiled, “I really liked those bowls, mom.  When you go back to Vietnam can you get us more?”  I silently think back to the tragic ending of that breathtaking trip. I lost my love only hours after landing back home. It was elation to devastation in mere seconds. I turn so that my son can’t see the tears forming in my eyes.  “Yes. Someday, if I ever find the courage and strength to take that trip back, I will get you those bowls my boy.” I wipe the tear that runs down my face as I think of Adam smiling with happiness knowing that the beautiful, coconut glass bowls were such a hit.  

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