Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Things We Keep

I've been helping my sister and my brother-in-law get settled into their new place and in the process, I've been thinking about the things we collect in life. Why do we hold onto some things long past their prime and what makes us have such strong feelings about objects?

As I put away my sister's collection of Cabbage Patch Kids (circa 1985,) I started thinking about what we keep and why. Do we hold onto things because it reminds us of our youth? Are we squirreling things away to enjoy in our old age? Do we really need that prom dress or the homemade tree ornaments or the napkin from our cousin's wedding? Seriously, do we need them? In many ways, what we keep is a snapshot of who we are...if I didn't know my sister, I would have a pretty good picture of who she is, just from looking at her belongings. Maybe we keep things as a way of keeping former selves?

So what do you have lurking in your closets or cupboards or storage units that say something about who you are? Here are three things you would find at my house that may not get pulled out on a daily basis, but that I keep because they are meaningful to me.

The first thing you would find if you went into my kitchen cupboards is my collection of old glassware. It all started when my grandmother passed away. As we cleaned out her house, I found an incredible assortment of beautiful pieces. I have no fond memories of using them as a child, but I do enjoy imagining that once my dad sat at the breakfast table drinking juice from some of them. I've used them as centerpieces and most often, as vases. Very seldom have they ever held a drink. Here is a photo of a few of my favorites. What does this say about me? That I like glassware? That I yearn for a simpler time when people drank reasonably-sized portions of beverages?

Next is a cookbook that I have hijacked from my mother. (Please don't tell her I have it, as it is one of my favorite things and I don't want to give it back.) It is The Victory Garden Cookbook by Marian Morash and it is not only lovely to look at, with its overflowing baskets of produce and shots of the author working in her garden, it is chock full of recipes for every kind of fruit, vegetable and herb under the sun. Need an idea of what to do with the six hundred pounds of zucchini, look in this book. Want to know how to make Lacy Jerusalem Artichoke Pancakes? Look in this book. Now, I would love to say that I use this book every day to make healthy and delicious meals for my family. But the truth is, I mainly just like to browse through it with good intentions. If someone found this amongst my cookbooks, what would they think? Does this make me a hippie-earth mother (because deep down, I sort of am?) Did I actually make the Lacy Jerusalem Artichoke Pancakes?

Finally, here is a shot of my grandmother's Hawaiian dress from a vacation she took there (I think it must have been in the 70's.) Would someone find this amongst my things and think I'd been to Hawaii? Would they wonder why I decided to go with such a bright mix of colors? I've never even tried this dress on and it stays hanging in the back of my closet. But I don't want to let it go. It reminds me the everyone has a story.

My grandmother, who I did not know well, loved to travel. She went to several interesting places in her life and always brought back something beautiful to remember those places. Sometimes it was fabric or a some piece of local art. I found this dress amongst her things when we cleaned out her house. Surely she kept it as a reminder of a special time in her life. Perhaps what makes it even more memorable is the photo that I found of her wearing the dress. She is smiling as she is greeted by a hunky Hawaiian man wearing little more than a loincloth. Everyone has moments and memories that are precious to them and sometimes a person's things can tell us what those memories are.

So, I'm not sure what all my stuff says about me, but I do know that what we keep says something about who we are. What do your things say about you?

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

I think the stuff I keep shows that I have many serious mental problems that need checking, pronto. But if I'm okay with that, what does THAT say about me?

I'm off to wallow in my stuff. I like the idea of your grandma hanging out with hunky hawaiians. I like the idea of me hanging out with hunky hawaiians, actually...i wonder if they'd help me with my stuff.