Friday, February 20, 2009

Excavating My Life

For the past couple of weeks I've been like Howard Carter excavating the tomb of Tutankhamen. Except I've acted as both the archaeologist and the Boy King. K has been bringing boxes out of our storage and up from the basement. As I've been unpacking, I find myself confronted by the possessions of my former self, my life before The House.

I've found things I had no memory of owning. Things acquired late, just before the move (or given to us during the construction) and packed away until now had little chance to imprint into my brain.

I have a Waterford wine coaster? Really? How nice. And Waterford martini glasses too? Aren't we elegant!

In a box of completely unrelated items, I found a "new" biography of Henrik Ibsen. I'll be happy to find time to dig into that. There was also a "Complete Poems of Edgar Allen Poe."

There were boxes dedicated solely to items related to travel. I found a Euro hair dryer that I could swear I'd given away. I also found some Euros.

There were water treatment supplies for travel in the developing world and a toothpaste box marked "syringes." I'd completely forgotten about the syringes. Can you imagine the hubris? Lying in a hospital, suffering some grave disease or injury I look up at the doctor and say "Before you begin, you should know I've brought my own syringes."

I also recovered my much missed Nicole Miller "Barbie" toiletry bag. Within, I found a can of "Wrinkle Away" - because when you're traveling in the developing world, the last thing you want, besides needle-borne infection, is wrinkled outerwear.

Here's a leopard print insulated lunch pack. I wonder where that came from? Now I have no excuse for not packing my lunch to work.

And then there were these beauties:

The picture above doesn't really capture this blue glass properly so I had to take another but could only fit in one:

I have no idea where these salt and pepper shakers came from but I am thrilled to have them. They are my my absolute favorite color and I love their squawky little pose. I suspect that I purchased them myself at an antique store in a small town in Texas, but I'm not entirely sure. They must have been packed away before I ever had a chance to use them.

I know there's more to come. There are still boxes in the basement - boxes of things I could actually be using now - like a colander and some extra forks. We have 8 that we kept out. Even for just the two of us, a few more forks would be nice.

I know there are still oodles of glassware somewhere. And I can't really assign proper storage to what I have until I know what remains.

And then there are the cows. There are three boxes of cow creamers and a few more individuals tucked away here and there.

I don't like to think I'm defined by my things, yet obviously I am.

I cannot let go of so much stuff because these things are my history (whether or not I remember owning them.) Like good set design, the things with which I surround myself tell my history, my tastes and indulgences. They tell these things to me even when I don't recognize them.

Who are those people who are rootless and move about the world without need of possessions? They live on boats and on the road. They've seen our country from motorcycles and RVs. They've seen the world from sailboats. They backpack through Europe. They own only one pair of shoes. I'll never do any of those things. Yet how telling is it that I have three plastic storage boxes labeled Travel? I almost need a Sherpa to visit the Empire State Building.

Am I delusional to think I am not materialistic?


Christopher Busta-Peck said...

I don't think being materialistic is bad in itself. I love stuff too. Mmmm, stuff. Whether I've had money or not, I've always tended to accumulate. Granted, when I've had money, I've accumulated nicer things, but even when I had no money, I seemed to do a pretty good job of finding wonderful objects discarded here and there.

It's the matter of how our materialism affects who we are and the other choices we make as human beings that matters. We should ask ourselves what we do with our love of stuff. Do we create things of beauty and things that define our homes or do we create large homes with boring facades to hide behind.

At least, this is what I tell myself as I continue to accumulate.

Christopher Busta-Peck said...

On the other hand, I'm able to justify getting rid of a lot of (mass produced) stuff by telling myself that, if I ever want it again, I can always go buy it on eBay or through some other channel. The cost for so many older books and objects is surprisingly low. It seems a better value, at least in theory, to let someone else deal with storing them for the next 30 years than to hold onto things that one might want. Of course, this doesn't work for things that have sentimental value, but for most of the junk I keep around the house, it'll do just fine.

modernemama said...

Love that blue glass.

Jennifer said...

Those salt and pepper shakers are FABULOUS!

I go through periods of saving and purging... sometimes I purge things I'd rather have saved!