Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Power of Objects

I am a recovering packrat. For a couple of year I have been attempting to divest myself of the pile I have accumulated in the past 50+…well, -60…years. Don’t laugh. I have my Teddy bear and dolls from the 1950s so the pile has gotten rather large. I think I have always valued people over things, but there is no denying that I attach a lot of emotion to certain objects which have been owned by or remind me of people I love. Looking at them, touching them, wearing them connects me to the past or a particular person.

I use jewelry as talismans. When I have a potentially stressful appointment or day ahead, I put on jewelry that has belonged to people from whom I can draw strength and calm. I have a ring given to me by my best friend. We’ve known each other since we were little girls. The ring was hers and when she tired of it she gave it to me to sell at a garage sale, but I kept it. Her strength, of which she has a lot, flows through me when I wear it. I have the engagement/wedding ring my father gave my step-mother forty years ago. When she remarried following my father’s death she tearfully pressed it into my hand. It is beautiful. I love the fact that she wore it for over thirty years and that my father picked it out. They both travel with me when I wear that ring. I have my great-grandmother’s engagement ring. It is little and delicate with filigree. I wear it when I want a connection to the strong women of my family’s past. Amanda Austin lost a son to diphtheria, traveled from the Mid West to the Olympic Peninsula where she, depending on which family version you subscribe to, either had another baby in her mid 40s during the 19th Century or adopted a Native American baby and raised her as her own. Either way, I figure she was tough as nails. She looks pretty no nonsense in her pictures.

I won’t even begin to list the things of my dad and his family that I have. I have shared some with my children, but pretty much if my Dad owned it I have trouble turning loose of it. Recently our household inherited some furniture that belonged to my ex-in-laws. I loved them and I love those pieces. Always have. They are not mine per se, but I get the use of them for the time being and I could not be happier. The best of the bunch is the table. I was eighteen the first time my ex-husband took me home to his parents’ house for dinner. They had a big family and a big round table which I found enchanting. Later we married and had babies who ate at that table as well. Mom and Dad were kind and loving from day one and I learned more from my mother-in-law than nearly any other woman. The table has three leaves to accommodated spouses and grandchildren and now it sits in my dining room. I’m keeping it for my ex-sister-in-law who lives on the other side of the country. I am hoping that distance and age will make her less likely to come fetch it, but in the meantime I think of Mom and Dad every time we sit down to eat. If no one comes to get it, I hope that someday it will belong to one of my grandchildren and that more generations will eat off it after I have no more need for it.

I do believe in the power of objects. You may choose to think that it is psychological. Real or imagined, those objects have the power to soothe my heart.


Grandma L said...

That was a very interesting post. It kept bringing memories of certain things in my life. I especially remember the big round tables and the more leaves you put into it turns it into an oval shape. In my family everybody always had a big glass of iced sweet tea at their plate. Also the big round tables were ideal for games.
Thanks for the memories.

Jimh. said...

I guess, I subscribe to a version of that. for me, it's places. My grandfather's SHOP and my other grandfather's Basement shop...those were powerful places for me. Those men had done so much in those spaces. I also like the crests of hills...I get a lot of feeling from that. I am sure its psychological, but, I think all that matters is what it does for me. I feel better, therefore it's real.

Stephanie Frieze said...

Yes, I should have thought to mention places Jimh. We have an old house that although has only been in our family for 20 years, feels like it holds a lot of history. For me the Missouri Ozarks is a mystical place from which my family sprang. It has a profound effect on me when I go there, although I am very glad the family came West. We have oxygen in the air!