Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Objects of Desire

Recently my family and I visited Seabright, an area in New Jersey devastated by Hurricane Sandy. We parked back by the river, next to a huge pile of splintered wood, sinks, clothes, furniture. At the other end of the lot, there were three houses torn off their foundations. We could look right inside through the holes in the walls - shirts still hung in closets, a fridge revealed condiments and milk cartons.

Next to one house, someone had found a collection of those ceramic houses people put out at Christmas to create a village scene. The tiny things were balanced on old mooring posts, awaiting the return of the owners.
Image courtesy of Caracas shots

As we walked around the houses, silenced by the tragedy of the scene, I found another house half-buried under sand. With one gloved hand, I dug it up and added it to the tiny collection. 

The wind whistled in our ears. The kid got hungry. We packed up and left.

It made me think about Things - Objects - the Stuff we collect. When my mother died last year and we were packing up her room, we found her old teddy bear and the photos of her sisters and grandchildren.

I was in an odd state that day - I hadn't quite accepted that my life had changed forever. Mum's last few years had been filled with the violence and horror that goes with Alzheimer's, and in order to lessen that for only a few seconds, my sister and I had started giving her presents - pretty tea-towels, stuffed animals, children's books, flowery napkins.

When I found all that abandoned stuff, I had the strangest thought: 

"Mum forgot to pack these..."

A few weeks ago we visited friends. They live in a tiny cabin and refuse to collect things. There isn't any room in their house, for one thing, and what room there is has been filled with feathers, cool-shaped pieces of wood, funky looking stones, a lovely shell - those are the things they hold precious.

Our daughter, who is the very Queen of Stuff, was taken aback. "Are they poor?" she whispered to me as we left.

"No," I replied. "They just see the world differently."
Image courtesy of Colin Jong

We returned to our house, which is bulging with things. One day the kid is going to have to sort it all out. She'll get that old bear, which I just had to hang onto. It's antique, for one thing, and by now it has been layered with love and the memory of my mum. 

And what will she do with it? Where will it go at that point? To a dump, to a box, to a careful shelf?

To sit on a mooring post by the river, listening to the wind forever?


Johanna Garth said...

This was a beautiful post Allie. I've had a lot of time to think about Things lately too and question their meaning.

Alison DeLuca said...

Thanks, Johanna. I can't tell you how much that means, coming from you.

And, yes, it is something that I've been thinking about a lot, lately.

Dean Lappi said...

A wonderful post Alison!