The word souvenir[WT] comes from Français, but with a twist. French, itself, borrowed subvenio[WT] from Latin, meaning something akin to “bring to mind, come up with.” In English it usually means “a memento of sentimental value, an aid in remembering.”
I consider such objects useless bric-à-brac[WT].
But there is one… In 2013 we flew to Dublin, Ireland, for a conference and the start of a three-month stint in Europe during Elizabeth’s sabbatical. And there was a lovely little teapot when I went looking for something better than the stale teabags in the hotel room; my first introduction to London Pottery.
It is an example of the Farmhouse filter teapot design, which itself is a modern variation on the traditional ‘Brown Betty’[WP] – a nearly spherical body with a nicely-draining S-style spout and comfortable round handle. I was sold because of the removable filter basket – a feature utterly lacking in the Brown Betty which more usually had a pierced ceramic ‘strainer’ over the outlet to the spout, making the spout effectively uncleanable. Ours is the smallest variety, I believe marketed as a ‘2-cup’ size but holding a bit more than 500 ml so is closer to 3 teacups, a bit less than 2.5 imperial cups.
It has been a most lovely and useful teapot, and sometimes makes upwards of 5 pots in the day. And every time it is used I am reminded of that sojourn in Europe, and the several kitchens it has graced since. It is not an elegant or flashy souvenir, requiring caution and care for its ongoing existence. Rather, it is a tool in regular use, valued for its own sake as well as its connections to people, places, and events.
Someday it will fall and break, and I will be sad it is gone, but not heartbroken. It is an aide-mémoire[WT], not an irreplaceable person, a simple thing. The memories themselves continue to fade, and beyond Elizabeth and me are already as valueless as the future shards of the teapot shall be.