This is a cheap little souvenir coin purse, in the form of a Swiss one franc coin, made of synthetic leather. It is about 7 cm in diameter, and about 8 mm thick. (Sorry, I still prefer the metric system, it feels more intuitive to me.)
If I recall correctly, I bought it in the mid-nineties. I think I had just moved to New York, so it must have been 1995 or 1996 perhaps. Or was it before? Hard to say for certain. In any case, I was with my mother. We were on a little adventure in her car, driving back from the Italian speaking part of Switzerland, the Ticino. On a whim, we decided to take the St. Gotthard pass, rather than staying on the highway, which leads through an impossibly long tunnel. The drive through the tunnel is 10.5 miles long, or just shy of 17 km, and it takes about 20 minutes. I’ve always found it excruciating to drive through so much mountain.
So, we took the pass. My mother loves to drive, and she loves hairpin curves. I remember that we had a very open, emotional, heartfelt conversation on the way up. Back then, we didn’t always have an easy time with each other – these days we do. But on this drive, I felt close to her, and the honesty and frankness were quite remarkable.
When we got to the peak of the mountain, we stopped for a break. There was a little old-fashioned kiosk, freestanding and away from the main building structures. It was run by an old Nepalese man with crazy teeth and a big, warm smile. I don’t know if we spoke to each other in Swiss German or English, but I do remember having one of those special conversations – the kind that makes you walk away smiling, feeling refreshed and joyous.
Amidst Toblerone chocolate, gummy bears and postcards, there was this little coin purse, neglected and a bit dusty. It must have been part of his inventory for at least two decades, ignored by countless travelers.
To me, it is perfect. Yes, it represents those rich memories. But I’d also be charmed by it if I came across it anew, in a museum or at the flea market. It has a certain Warholian quality, and I love the red and green color combo, along with the gold embossing. As with many objects that have accompanied me over the years, I don’t really use this item. It’s just part of our household. Occasionally, it gets knocked off the shelf by the cat (an attention seeking strategy). Picking it up from the floor, I remember inhaling that cold mountain air at an altitude of 2114 meters.