I’ve been away from these pages for a few weeks because Mark (Opa) and I went to Croatia and Slovenia, with a brief visit to Bosnia-Herzegovenia. We were away only two weeks, but somehow catching up with work before and afterwards, and getting ready for the trip and re-entry afterwards ate up a lot of time. We saw some beautiful picture-postcard scenes along the Adriatic coast and some very sad reminders of the war in the Balkans during the 1990s. And we met a number of other grandparents – this is, after all, the demographic that has the time and the money to travel.
Even though none of us were with our grandchildren, you could tell that thoughts of them were ever-present. One grandfather looked everywhere for dolls in ethnic costumes for his granddaughters that were “not in plastic cases [the dolls, not the granddaughters] but were real dolls that the girls can drag around with them.” A grandmother stocked up on local postage stamps for her grandson’s collection. Several people hit the computers at the hotel every day to connect with children and grandchildren. And so it went.
We sent postcards to everyone as we always do, letting them know we were thinking of them and giving them a little taste of another country. Then, throughout our twelve days of active sight-seeing I looked for presents that I might bring the grandchildren. I ruled out cheap souvenirs since they all have too much stuff already and don’t need more to clutter up their homes. I ruled out expensive jewelry because I like to shop for good gifts where I know the merchant and can return if there’s any problem. I knew we didn’t need to bring anything, since one of my daughters has said, “Please don’t bring a present every time you come – the children are happy just to see you.” And we weren’t gone any longer than a typical gap between seeing the family.
But I didn’t feel right coming home empty-handed after we had taken such an extensive trip, so I kept looking – and I finally found a solution for the four granddaughters in an unlikely little souvenir shop: little change purses made of handkerchief-linen fringed with lace (for which Croatia is known), with little zippers. Easy to pack, inexpensive, and easy to push to the back of a dresser drawer if the girls don’t want to use them. For our 20-something grandson there was nothing that seemed useful or entertaining enough to bring home. We’ll have to buy him a little something when he comes to visit us this fall.
I wonder how other grandparents feel about bringing souvenirs from trips for grandchildren. A “must,” a “maybe,” or a “forget-about-it”? Let me hear from you.