Berlin, Germany – May 2008
I scan the tourist map, every tiny line and word, searching for the Berlin Wall. How is it that one of the most intriguing tourist attractions in Berlin isn’t clearly marked? My eyes sweep past something called Eastside Gallery. Maybe that’s it. The hotel reception confirms this, so my husband and I set off in that direction.
It is spring, but a cold wind blows. From time to time, blue sky manages to push through the gray clouds. The dour face of Checkpoint Charlie brightens briefly and then falls back into shadow. I take off my coat and then put it back on. Then I take it off again.
Only a few clusters of people are gathered in front of the Wall, leaving lots of room to linger and ponder. Countless autographs from visitors past are scrawled in the spaces between. Some of the graffiti has begun to creep over the artwork.
A group of young Spaniards giggle as they scrawl on the Wall in black marker. One of the girls looks to the left and then to the right before digging into the cement with a key. A tiny chip falls into her hand. She squeezes it in her grasp and holds it close, a victorious smile on her face.
Everyone wants to remember. T-shirts. Shot glasses. Snow globes. Keychains. Pins. Stickers. Postcards. Thimbles. Teaspoons. Those last two have always baffled me. Hey, wanna see my thimble collection? I’ve got them displayed on a special rack in my living room!
When I was younger, my fridge was adorned with colorful mementos of trips taken. However, some places were missing – Papua New Guinea and Anguilla and a couple of others. This gnawed at me. Empty spaces on the humming metal door. When I moved overseas, I realized just how heavy those magnets could be. How much room they took up in my luggage. I loosened my grasp and gave them all away.
Remember where you were. Those vibrant deviations from the system of your life.
Some leave things behind. Others bring things home.
Some gather images in analog or digital. Or scribble impressions in a journal.
Only the very bravest can hide the moments away in the private treasure chest of the mind.