A Map of Possessions
Posted on September 21, 2013
My mother has been in the process of going through fifty years worth of her personal things, as she downsizes to move into the granny flat under construction. I was in Rushworth to help her a few weeks ago, and as we went through boxes and bags of things that have floated there in the background of all of our lives, she told me stories, prompted by the photos, and by other possessions, which have been bestowed, or passed down to her over the years. They were modest little tales, but there were so many of them that I asked her if she could do me a favour when she has a chance, and write down the stories of her precious things. I have written previously about the interest that I have in the memory of objects here , and how important they are in the fabric of our personal narratives.
Without the stories attached to them, possessions hold little value. It is the history of an object that creates its salient meaning. When people “lose everything” in a fire or disaster, this is where the grief comes from. Some things are irreplaceable, like your grandmothers jewellery, and the meaning that she herself invested in it, softly interwoven with your own attachment through her. In the days before the world went digital, photos and letters were as precious as any other personal treasure. Heirlooms of any kind are laden with hopes, losses, loves newly tender or long lost. If we lose the stories attached to them, the objects become disparate puzzle pieces.
On my bedroom mantelpiece I have a little twist of green florist wire that I found in a drawer a couple of months ago. It was our cat Kiku’s favourite play thing. It came from the makings of the 120 white tissue flowers that I made for our wedding reception. I carried it from Bondi to Elwood, and onto Geelong for him to play with, though he was forever losing it underneath the fridge, where it would sit for months until the joy of rediscovery. It makes me smile to look upon it. That probably makes me a bit of a sentimental fool, and the fact that I have a hundred or so similar worthless little trinkets imbued with memories, probably puts me in danger of becoming some crazy (cat lady) hoarder in years to come. Nevertheless, this is one of the ways in which I derive comfort and a sense of myself in time.
Mum said that everyone had always made fun of her grandmother, Nan, for being a hoarder, but that there were only a couple of garbage bags of stuff left when she died. Still, Nan’s old letters and photographs and things of value to her have been kept by mum all of these years. I value them, these things, and my grandmother Francie’s depression glass vase, the little crystal jug that Mama gave me, and things from my mother, and other members of my family. It is like a map of possessions, and love encapsulated, and a portrait of times gone by.