Although I'm not a huge shopper, I do love a good gift shop. And I have very little interest in museums - but museum gift shops rock. I'll always remember the coil bracelet from MOMA and the acid green clutch from SFMOMA and the Monkees video collection from The Museum of TV and Radio; just a few of the great museums I never went inside.
And now it appears that Liam has inherited the gift shop gene. Again, he is not a shopper......he still cries at the mention of a mall stop. But gift shops are like tiny, allowance-friendly amusement parks of stuff. Driving up and down the eastern seaboard, he calls out every time we pass a general store (a quaint, New England term for "souvenir shop") because he knows there will be key chains with the state motto and $3 pocket knives and postcards of lobsters who fart or say bad words. Things I might just buy because they're funny. You know that mom, that good and practical mom, who won't buy anything cheap or stupid because it's a waste of money (and it's probably dirty from all the truckers who looked at it first)? I'm not that mom. I swear, I'd buy him a shot glass if it made me laugh.
So he's well-acquainted with gift shops/general stores/souvenir shops. And this was made glaringly evident during the following incident: Not long ago, we found a little walking trail near our house. And instead of looking forward to a lovely day as a family, Liam cried and whined about having to spend quality time outdoors on a beautiful day. He begged to go home. He offered to stay in the car. And when we eventually parked at the start of the trail he said, "Why don't I just meet you in the gift shop?"
Omigod, what have I done? Dude, it's a TRAIL, not a national park.
But his love of souvenirs also works in my favor. Last weekend, Mike couldn't come home for the weekend so I decided it was a good opportunity to do something he would hate. "Liam," I say. "What would you rather do - visit Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower or visit Minuteman National Park and see Revolutionary War re-enactments?"
He looks pensive, skeptical. Neither of these things sound fun to him. Too educational. Too PBS-y. But then he says, "Which one has the better gift shop?"
Score! I'm in! You KNOW there's a whole factory in China devoted to making pilgrim crap!
So off we go to see the Mayflower and Plimoth (old timey spelling) Plantation.
When we arrive in Plymouth (regular, modern day spelling), we can see the masts of the ship from the car window. The masts of the ship that carried the pilgrims! It's the freakin' Mayflower, people! Re-built in 1957, but still! We won't focus on that! We quickly park, feed the meter and, I'm not kidding, we start running. We are running like the Griswolds running toward the gates of Wally World. Vangelis is playing in my head and I do a little slo mo skip-hop.
We spend a grand total of 20 minutes on the ship because that's how we roll. The most interesting factoid about the Mayflower crossing is that the Pilgrims didn't dump their chamber pots overboard; instead, they dumped them into a barrel below deck (you know, where they eat and sleep and play and live) and then they dumped the barrel overboard when it got full. That just seems like rubbing salt in the wound, doesn't it? It's bad enough that you have to live all smashed together with everyone's BO and barf smells but you also have to sit and spin yarn next to a barrel full of other people's pee and poo? I saw windows down there - like they couldn't just dump their pots out the window? Can I speak to the manager, please?
But I digress. On to the souvenirs......
The official Mayflower gift shop is a little disappointing. Not kitschy enough. Too many quills and ships in bottles - not enough pilgrim t-shirts. So we go across the street to the shop with a big sign announcing "PLYMOUTH SOUVENIRS! T-SHIRTS! FUDGE!" Jackpot. And here is just a sampling of our finds:
Souvenir #1: Thanksgiving Turkey Hat. Perfect for more formal holiday feasts.
Souvenir #2: Tiny View Master Camera. Look through the viewfinder and click through 40 year-old images of "Signing of Mayflower Compact (re-enactment)," "Pilgrim's Landing on Plymouth Rock," "John & Priscilla," "Pilgrim Houses," "Plymouth Rock," "Mayflower at Dock," "Mayflower at Sea," "Massasoit Statue," and "Plymouth National Wax Museum."
Souvenir #3: Bikini Doorstoppers. For Thanksgiving at the beach.
And the piece of resistance (drumroll please)..............
Souvenir #4: Starring in our own Old-Time Pilgrim Photos.
When I saw the sign outside the kiosk, I immediately thought "There is NO WAY I am NOT doing THAT!!!!!" Although we miss him, one of the great things about traveling without Mike is that we can do impractical, stupid, embarrassing, quasi-classless things without him going "Noooo.......Kristin. What are you doing? Sigh. Rub browbone. Fold arms over chest and look away."
The photographer takes her job very seriously as she is an actual descendant of a pilgrim (yes, I'm sure you are). So I try not to laugh the whole time. Just at appropriate times. But when she goes to the closet and picks up the styrofoam Plymouth Rock and places it at our feet (see photo above! do not miss rock at our feet!) I let out a series of guffaws that would make that uncle in Mary Poppins proud. I even had to slap my knee several times because I couldn't express all the laughter through mere laughing. It was so damn funny I thought I just might die of laughter.
She makes me take off my sunglasses for ultimate authenticity. But, in retrospect, I wish I would have kept the sunglasses on and asked for a cigarette. I'd put my foot up on styrofoam Plymouth Rock and be like, "Holy shit, that voyage effing sucked."
Don't be surprised when you see this on your Christmas card next year! Note Bible and gun!
Happy souvenir shopping!