About two years ago I decided to prepare an Inventory of the things in my house and to tell the stories of where they came from and how they got to be here. I don’t mean ordinary things, like a table or couch, but things that have family meaning, or are maybe valuable in some other way. As I am getting kind of old now, I thought this might be a useful document to leave our daughters, so when they come to dispose of the household’s goods, they could have some guidance as to what things were.
Besides, it turned out to be fun to look at each object and remember and record its story. I did a bit of research, too, looking up makers’ marks and images of types, so I could better understand and comment on the things that at present live in our house.
I love these stories! I took a couple of pictures of objects for this post, and I can tell you a little of their travels. Up at the top there, from left to right:
--from Tibet, bought at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts from a Buddhist monk, a wall hanging with the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism;
--bought in Bayeux, France, in a tiny store across from the museum of the Bayeux Tapestry, a tile of the poppy of Normandy, made by the storekeeper’s wife;
--from Belize, via NYC and Belmont, Massachusetts, bought at a yard sale, a mola of fanciful animals
--bought from Wampanoag Indians in their shop at Gay Head, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, a wreath of red corn;
--bought in Harvard Square, Cambridge from the artist, who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, a painting of a lime (and who knows where that lime was from!);
--from Poland, bought and carried home by my Mother in 1959, a red woolen wall hanging with a pattern of trees;
--bought in Costa Rica by the side of the road, from the artist, a carved gourd; and finally,
--from Morocco but bought at Epcot in Florida Disney, a pair of gaudy fabric and sequin wall decorations.
Or how about these?
--Bought in a market in Kenya, a wooden giraffe;
--bought in Hanoi, Viet Nam, at a museum shop, a platter covered with gold leaf;
--from my childhood home, provenance unknown, but my Mother’s favorite color, a cobalt glass candy jar;
--bought in Rhodes, Greece, from the artist in his shop, a ceramic covered dish, with a decoration of fish;
--bought at the Webster, Florida, flea market, a reed church fan with an ad for a South Carolina insurance company on the back;
--bought at an antique store in Denver in 1954, as a 16th birthday present for me from my parents, a Victorian brass teapot;
--bought and carried home from Czechoslovakia by my Mother, a delicate woven basket;
--a geode filled with amethyst crystals, millions of years old, provenance unknown; and finally,
--an interesting-looking twig, perhaps from a pine tree, and probably collected very many years ago by my Father, who was fond of such things.
All of these things have traveled many miles before arriving in my house, and they will travel many more after they move along to someone else’s inventory. In an earlier Notions post I wrote: “Our things travel so swiftly around this planet, stretching from person to person and place to place in a net of stupendous complexity.” My Inventory is only a snapshot in time/place of one small node of this net, my house. Imagine if you could pick a few special objects in your own inventory, and watch their passage around the world throughout time.
And, of course, now at the end of the year, it is not just objects which are being inventoried, but goals, aims, actions, resolutions as well. How did I do, this year? What can I check off? What are my plans? What remains to be done? And you? How are you doing? What is in your inventory?