These Precious Things
Posted on October 21, 2012
I was unloading the dishwasher the other night and a favorite red plate came out chipped, the white underneath showing like exposed bone. It was one of a set of four that Al and I bought with money given to us when we got engaged, by dear friends of my family. One of those friends was dying at the time, and he passed away before our wedding. He had been my father’s best friend. It was for this reason that I felt a pang of grief at the breakage of the red plate.
Our possessions can hold memories in time as though set in glass, so that when they are lost, or broken, we lose a part of our personal narrative. Though the memory itself remains, that visual key which easily unlocks and unwinds it, weaving it throughout our days and keeping those old moments alive, well polished and lovingly worn, is lost, and the well oiled ease of remembering memories is diminished.
These are the most precious possessions that we can own, and our stories remain strong being bound to them. As I walk around my house, I tell myself stories that I know to be true, wound up in the cues that I encounter as I go. One book on my shelf is that which my father bought me when I was a little girl; one teapot in my row of teapots (and of course, each has a part in the narrative) painted with an old map of the world, was bought for me by my twin brother in a shop in the Dandenong Ranges, many years ago; that vase is one that I fell in love with in a shop in Curlewis St in Bondi (and the memory unravels, sensuously), this Chagall postcard my friend Heidi sent me from France when we were in our mid-twenties, and I was living back in Northcote; letters poured back and forth between us. This is the ring that Al placed upon my finger in Watsons Bay when he proposed to me, and this is the crystal decanter that he gave me on my first birthday with him, one of many gifts all doled out separately that day. Here is the formerly flawless paper nautilus my friend sent me in the post, wrapped carelessly in tissue, along with words, always the words. It got chipped the day after the Leonard Cohen concert in 2011, the perfection marred but not the tale of its origin.
So many memories tangibly curated and kept here. I have already begun the litany of Perry’s personal narrative of objects, for when he grows older; this rainbow coloured bear with your name and date of birth upon it was contained in a courier bag that came to our door in Elwood a few days after you came home, this soft bear called Bukowski is one that your Dadda chose for you in a shop in Geelong before you were born, on the weekend that we decided to move here; this blanket knitted by your Nanna, and this silver and glass snow dome which plays A Baby’s Lullaby is engraved with part of its story ‘In Memory of MaMa’, bought for you by your great grandfather, when I play it to you I call it ‘playing MaMa’, and so I keep that lovely lady alive for the pair of us.