Junk Drawer Memoirs–What Does Your Collected Stuff Say about You?

National Geographic magazine printed a story a few years ago that popped up again recently. A French man named Mantin died in 1905 and decreed in his will that his house was to be left untouched for 100 years. The article states that the 54-year-old childless bachelor was afraid of being forgotten. Wow, shades of Miss Havisham in Dickens’s 1861 novel, Great Expectations. I wonder of Mantin had read it.

 

All of us want to feel as if we’ve made a difference, we want to be remembered. There are a myriad of wonderful ways to do this besides enshrining yourself or your home for over 100 years. That is just sad and a bit creepily fascinating.

 

Years ago I read about someone who did an experiment like this with people on the streets of a large city. It was fascinating what people carried around and why. Folks used to say that a good woman could survive for a week on the contents of her purse. This idea usually brings a laugh, then a sheepish admission that this evaluation is not too far off the mark.

 

However, what would happen if someone took your purse, your backpack, or one drawer in your house, and tried to learn about you just from the contents?

What story would your accumulated objects tell about you?

 

I tried this experiment a few years ago on myself with my “treasure box” drawer. Here’s what I found, described as an observer:

The Keepsake Drawer—-a box of gaudy plastic beads strung on a thick cord, gifts from her children.  Precious! The antique ring, elegant gold setting with just a piece of amethyst colored glass set in.  Given to her husband by the eccentric elderly lady whose lawn he mowed as a boy.  He had worked while she entertained the old man who was her gardener with iced tea and conversation.  But– when he found the chunk of purple glass she had it set in an elaborate vintage gold ring and returned it to him as a keepsake.  He had kept it for years then gave it to the girl he married.

Silk scarf woven in  gold and ivory that once belonged to her grandmother, a Swarovski crystal necklace and earring set left over from that same grandmother’s dinner party days; cheap tourist scarves collected from around the world, from places other people went.  A tiny swimsuit, an antique lace collar and three yards of handmade white lace, an enameled antique gold-rimmed plate, and a rustic looking pottery goblet and cup set that somehow made her think of the Holy Grail.  Assorted Mother’s Day cards and a blood pressure cuff.

A silver plated art deco tea set she’d kept through one husband, four moves and three children.  It was the first antique she’d ever bought at a garage sale when she was thirteen.  Somehow, it symbolized the elegance and travel she dreamed of.  Tarnished and pitted in a couple places but her dream nonetheless.  She couldn’t part with it, even all these years later.  Inspiring, maybe.

 

Look for symbols in the things around you.  Why does she/he keep that?  What is in your jewelry box, kitchen cabinets, closet, fishing tackle box, desk drawer?

 

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Karen Ray

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