The Souvenir

Cathlin Carlson


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The rain pelted the window of our Frankfurt hotel room. Late January, dark before dinner. My son, wobbling more than walking at 15 months, discovered with delight the rubber door stopper bolted to the floor. All he wanted was to unscrew the top and put it back together. He protested each time we left the room.

During an after-dinner walk, he removed a shoe and tossed it unseen from his stroller. As the night grew chillier, we retraced our steps, unable to find the single grey high-top.

He woke with a fright in the night, so I nursed him to calm him. He’d hardly touched our meals, so I nursed him to nourish him. He’d caught a cold, so I nursed him to help him heal.

By daytime at a cafe along the river Main, he played close by as I sipped mulled wine, spices swirling as I darted after him when he ventured too far. In the evening, I sampled a steaming Apfelwein from a stall along the cobblestones of the Altstadt, under half-timbered buildings and the towering Dom. He slept in his carrier. I sipped gingerly to avoid spilling onto his fuzzy head.

Despite all I thought we would see, what my son wanted most was to be in our room. The furniture was his architecture, the bath his body of water. I cradled him in bed, nursing him again as we locked eyes. Before leaving, he drifted to sleep against my chest on the tram. Focusing on the rhythm of his breathing, bouncing my body slightly, I purposely missed our stop. 

I returned home with books and candies for my daughters, but when I reached into our carry-on, I found that my son also packed a memento: the rubber top of the hotel door stopper.

Cathlin Carlson

is a

Guest Contributor for Panorama.

Cathlin Carlson co-leads the family travel blog Bond & Thomas. A native of Michigan, she now lives in County Kerry, Ireland.


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