Monday, February 25, 2013

#10 Books

My story: One of the longest love affairs that I have had is the one that I have had with books. My first memories as a toddler were that of my mother reading to me. Later, I often would hang upside down from an old tree branch and read my favorite books. I probably read “My Friend Flicka” a hundred times in that position.

Since then, the gratitude that I have for them has expanded profoundly. They have taken me on adventures beyond my wildest dreams. Even the not-so-good books that I have read equally present a different perspective on the world around me. Really, I can’t think of a book that I have read that hasn’t added some sort of depth to this, my human experience.

One of my very favorite days of every month is my book club night. On this night, a group of dear friends share their unique perspectives on one common book. Through books, I learn more about the people that I love. By keeping them on my shelves, people who love me will also get a glimpse into my experiences.

My dream-home is a library of books, music and art. I really don’t care how the structure looks, I just want these things within my walls. Even though I have converted to the Kindle and mp3’s in a lot of instances, there is something comforting about the ambience of a real paper book - the smell of the ink, the yellowing of the pages.

The truth: The majority of the books that I own will not be read again by me. They have already provided so much, and I am dishonoring them by not providing them to others to read. They are collecting dust. I can represent myself through discussions rather than things. The majority of books that I read come from the library, and my house certainly does not have to become one!

My action: 120 books lighter so far. Some of the books have been donated to the neighborhood used bookstore, others went to the thrift store. My favorites were given (or will be given) to friends who I know would enjoy the read. I kept only the ones that I will read or refer to again, and will make it my priority to get the ones I saved to their new homes.

One of the books that I kept was “Material World”, a photo journal by Peter Menzel. He went around the world and took pictures of families with all of their stuff outside of their houses. If you haven’t seen it, you should. Please borrow it from me! This is something I have kept in mind through this project so far. What would my yard look like if all of my stuff were on the lawn? 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

#9 Grandma's Quilts

My story: My grandmother was one of the most incredible women I have ever known. She developed a spunk that I adored after enduring a life of hardship. After surviving a very difficult childhood in the depression, she married my grandfather, who she met at the Ford factory where she worked on the assembly line for over 40 years. He left when my dad was only 8 months old, opting for a homeless, alcoholic life without them. She never received a nickel of child support while raising my dad, all the while being shunned by the small-town folk for being a divorcĂ©e. She married again when my dad was 16 to a war veteran with a young son. Even into her 90’s, she lived on a large farm, grew all of her own food, and delighted on making huge meals for her family. She also a most magnificent craftswomen and artist, constantly hand-sewing gorgeous quilts for her family.  Snuggling next to her as she sewed, it is a favorite memory of mine to hear her laugh when she would let me stay up late to watch “Hee Haw” and "the Johnny Carson” show. A lot of the patterns on the quilts are made with scraps of cloth that she also made dresses and aprons for me. I still can picture her delight in watching me wear them.

Her quilts are a comforting and warm remembrance of that time. Precisely six stitches per inch except for her name that she scribbled roughly, exactly as her handwriting. I sometimes catch myself gazing at her signature on these brilliant tapestries, and miss her so much.

The truth: I have only one bed, minimal closet space, and many of these quilts. Most of them, although gorgeous, are not on display because of space constraints. All those hours she spent making them, and they are pitifully folded at the foot of my bed on the floor.

My action: I gave a few of them away to family members who can use them now, instead of waiting for me to die so they can inherit them! I wanted to keep them with the people that can also remember her laugh when they look at her signature. I kept only the ones I will use and rightfully cherish.   

Sunday, February 10, 2013

#8 Creepy mink stole

My story: Somehow, I inherited a mink stole from my grandmother when she passed away in the early ‘80’s. It represents everything that is contrary to my style then, or now, or ever. I have no idea why I have moved it to from basement to basement since then, except that it was presented as valuable and a symbol of my grandmother whom I adored.

Thinking consciously about it, I don’t know why I think it is even a symbol of her. I didn’t even know about it until she died and it was in my hands. I never saw her wear it. It kind of blows my mind that she even owned a fur at all- she was such a lover of animals. The story behind it is lost. It does bear her monogram on it’s lining, which to me is the best thing about this coat.

The truth: The clear fact of the matter is that I’ve never worn it, the very thought of wearing it completely grosses me out! I can still love her without carrying this thing that does not even represent her, but her era. I’m in a dilemma as to what to do with it, my greatest desire is donate it to some animal with no fur!

My action: When I took it out to give it away, my daughter saw it for the very first time. She agreed that it would be hard to wear. Because it has some monetary value, I gave it to her anyway, advising her to sell it for money to help fund her schooling in Greece. When she agreed to sell it, but to raise money for the local animal shelter instead of herself, she made her mama proud. I'm quite sure her great-grandmother would be, too.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

#7 Bears

My story: When I was a kid, I went to an amusement park with my sweet cousin, Greg. One of the arcade games had those huge teddy bears as prizes, and I wanted one so badly. I had forgotten my “fun-money” so I borrowed a quarter from him for a chance to win one. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I threw the small wooden disk and it landed right on the top of the bottle.  The largest panda bear was about ¾ as big as I was at the time, wrapped with a big red ribbon and was now mine, all mine! This was the morning, and I lugged him around for the remainder of the day and into the night. It was so hot and humid outside, and carrying the bear was an equivalent of wearing a winter coat. It was also probably pretty entertaining to watch me ride the roller coasters and ferris wheels, clinging on to my new stuffed friend. I skipped some of the rides because he wouldn’t fit with me, and stood back and watched as Greg took those rides.

When we got home that night, Greg just started bawling. When we asked him what was wrong, he said that I had stolen the bear, it was rightfully his because it was won with his quarter. After much debate (and, I’m sure, bratty responses from me) my parents decided that he had a point, and made me give it to him. My turn to bawl! I couldn’t believe that my sweet Greg would do this to me, especially after I’d hauled that damned thing around all day.

He apologized several years later, and was forgiven way before that.  Just a few months ago, I received a package from Greg, stuffed to the brim with black and white teddy bears, ceramic bears, even gift cards to Panda Express, as an added hilarious symbol of apology.

The truth: I’m really not that fond of teddy bears anymore, even though these make me smile every time I look at them. My dog eats stuffed animals, so I can’t put them anywhere where she can see them. The old me would have held on to all of them for years because of their sentimental value, the new one won’t. My house is little. My love for Greg is big. That won’t change if these adorable little guys go to someone that will rightfully cuddle them!

My action: I gave the bears to my dear friend Tk, who had lost a favorite stuffed animal the week before. I hope they bring comfort and warmth.

When I was writing this piece I thought so much about the power of apology and forgiveness. I realized that although I had forgiven Greg, I had never acknowledged my own part in that conflict. Had I acted out of love instead of greed at the time, I would have handed Greg the bear the second that I won it. So, my other action was to forgive myself for being a greedy kid and not acknowledging his feelings that day.