Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Things We Carry, Part 1

In contemplating my next move, I have been looking over all of my stuff and deciding how I'm going to divvy things up - what goes in the first shipment, which will arrive a week or two after I get to Turkey, and what goes in the second shipment, which will arrive 2-3 months later.  And, of course, should any of that go awry coming through customs, I'll just have my two suitcases to live out of for a few months: so I'll need suits, medications, my favorite tea mug, photos for the fridge, a life-sized plastic doll's leg, and the collection of random items (toy horse, small hand bell, a ceramic cat) that sits on my desk at work.  

Wait... what?

This may sound slightly familiar, and it certainly does if you've ever been in my apartment.  I have a lot of stuff.  Decorative stuff.  Tchotchkes.  Kitsch.  It's stuff I've been dragging around for years in some cases, and I keep it because it all means something to me, and because it reminds that no matter where I go, I have a piece of my loved ones with me.  There's stories behind a lot of the stuff, inside jokes and souvenirs of trips I've taken or events I attended.  And, in the vein of Peteykins' sadly defunct blog (of which I may have been the only interested reader), I'm inflicting story time on everyone else.  After all...  story telling is probably what I do best in life (should have stuck with the original plan and become a writer), and props are always helpful, right?

So first up, I have my carved and painted art from Oaxaca, Mexico.

These were given to me by my friend Carol, who lived next door to me when I was growing up on the farm in Arkansas.  Carol was my surrogate aunt for ten years, babysitting me when my parents were out of town, hiring me to care for her animals when she was travelling, and telling me stories.  Endless stories, fabulous stories, and stories that opened my eyes to things I'd never considered.  Carol followed the Grateful Dead for a few years, in addition to living all over the US and Latin America, and she was the first person I really knew well who had travelled far and wide.  She had seen things and lived experiences that blew my ten-year-old mind, and she let me raid her huge book collection whenever I wanted.  She opened my eyes to the magic of travel and wonder in the world.

One year she was in Mexico and Cuba all summer, and I was given the responsibility of feeding and playing with her animals (horses, cats, dogs, chickens...  I think nine pets in total at that time).  When she came back in the early fall, she brought me these horses and the frame - that's a photo of me and Carol in the frame, the summer after I graduated from high school.  My mother got a hand-woven wool rug that to this day hangs in our house, under a poster of Mexican artwork.  This is the first real taste I got of tchotchkes, and they've been with me in every place I've lived since then.  My taste for really colorful, bright art probably developed out of these pieces and the things she had in her house.  Careless movers in DC and Riyadh have meant that the bigger horse has trouble wearing his ears and tail simultaneously, but them's the breaks.

After I moved off the farm, Carol moved to the West Coast to get an MBA, which she got from one of the top schools in the nation while battling - and defeating - hepatitis C.  I helped her move back to Memphis a few years later, carrying on a tradition of me being the cheap labor she used to help her move (that was the third time I've carried those damned books around, albeit the longest journey).  

And here is Oaxacan art with curious kitty.


  1. I too have my roots on a farm in Arkansas :-)

    Nice to see that Arkansans are makin something of themselves and I look forward to reading more!

  2. My rule used to be if I couldn't fit it in or on my car it had to go. Eventually that rule no longer fit so it was changed to I have to be able to move something on my own. Thankfully, when I moved to D.C. I got to get rid of that rule as well since I had family and so many friends living here.

    Oh, and by the way, great reference to a great O'Brien book.