For a long, long time, the things were a symbol of so much for me. Having things meant I had possessions of my own. The plates, the trees, the quilts, the state-shaped ashtrays, the Reagan cards, the pottery, the people-portraits — all held meaning for me and gave me a measure of happiness.
This isn't my platter. I couldn't take a picture of it
because I don't have my platter with me —
but you get the idea, don't you?
When I was in 8th grade, I left my parents' dry cleaners to go and look around in a shop of oddities that had just opened next store. In this narrow shop that smelled of things dusty and antique, there were many wonderful and interesting pieces — and one was within my reach. It was an old oval platter with an intricate blue-and-maroon patterned border that was crackled but pretty, and looked very regal to me. When I looked at this platter, I imagined that I would some day have a house, with a dining room and a table, and that one day, this platter would sit there in the middle of that table, my table, surrounded by people who would be talking and laughing and eating my food. I spent a hard-earned dollar for that platter because of the riches it gave me.
From then on, I gathered things for my someday-future. A time when I'd be away from the shouting and the banging and the hollering and the breaking of glass at home, and the oppressive heat of the dry cleaners with its acrid smell of cleaning fluid and our sweat as we handled and tossed and hung and bagged and carried the suits and the pants and the dresses and the blouses that were other people's fancy clothes.
Gathering things was a great pastime for me. Sometimes it was in the search — the hunting for something I wanted to own, or something that spoke to me from a shelf in a shop or the wall of a store. I pictured these things in my someday-home. Other times it was about being able to buy the things, being able to physically spend the money on objects that were wants, and not needs. And then other times, it was happiness in the pleasure these artistic things and how wonderful it felt to be surrounded by such things of beauty.
Much of my adult life I rejoiced in my things.
Now, decades later, for the first time I'm living without all my things! Not only am I living without those things, I've even begun selling them off, giving them away, and trying to zero in on what my husband wants, what our kids might want for their some-days, and what I truly want for mine.
Most of my friends can't believe that I'm living this nomadic existence with only a bunch of clothes and little else. I have no explanation for this shift other than to say that it's no longer the things that can fill me.
I'm looking for something else.
In the meantime, I have with me a little thing that I have carried in my travel bags for the past eighteen years whenever I've gone away from home. A tiny gift card from my son — because this little thing means a lot.