When I read about this WordPress Challenge I was intrigued by the thought of cherished objects. I have lived many years and have accumulated many objects that represent my relationships to others and experiences that have shaped who I believe I am. I enjoy these objects because when I look at them I am reminded of people who I have known, places I have been, things I have accomplished – but I have never used the term cherished object to describe them so this got me thinking about what a cherished object would be.
For me an object is just an object – I try not to be too attached to them because things get broken or lost or stolen. I learned this when my kids were little and we were financially struggling. I didn’t have a lot of nice things but had a pretty little glass something-or-other that I really liked – maybe even cherished. I don’t remember now what it was or where it came from. But it got broke – by one of the kids – by accident. And I cried. I cried because I couldn’t have anything nice in the house. This child felt badly, she cried, and I didn’t want her to carry guilt because deep down I realized that it was just an object and really didn’t matter in the big picture of life. This child was much more important, was much more beautiful than a pretty “whatever.”
I have also found that some objects that were important to me become less important – I can delegate them to a box in the basement or, even better, dispose of them. That part of my life is over or whatever that object represented isn’t as important. And sometimes this act becomes symbolic of the emotional struggle that comes with life transitions. Most recently this has happened with books.
I love books – in fact probably the most memorable birthday gift was a book given to me by Aunt Bernice when I turned 12 – going into 6th grade. It was a real book, not a Little Golden Book that I had lots of. This was a library bound type book – I think the name of it was Strawberry Girl. I put it on the shelf of the two-shelf bookcase I had in my room and I felt important. I don’t know what the reality was, but the picture in my memory is that it was the only book in the bookcase – any others that might have been there were removed either at the time or in my memory.
I don’t know what happened to that book but many books have replaced it. When we built our new house I made sure there were enough built-in bookcases. For my books. I don’t collect books so I didn’t need bookcases on every wall and in every room. Instead I needed just enough bookcases to store the books I enjoy and are memories of my life. And I had bookcases at work – with professional books that I used for reference and for my teaching and to tell people who I am.
You can tell who I am by looking at my bookcases. Don’t bother looking for my work bookcases because I had to empty them when I retired – more about that later. At home you can see the type of fiction I like to read by the books I have saved – the ones that I might get around to reading again some day because they were good, well-written stories.
And of course there is a shelf of books that I haven’t gotten to, yet. Below the books I haven’t read yet is a shelf of children’s books that have entertained the child within me or have connected me to grandchildren.
I have a shelf of children’s books in the basement that we read to our children and grandchildren. I picked out the ones we liked the best and I’ll let children and grandchildren take what they want and then give the rest to charity. They aren’t important to my life any more.
I have a shelf with my quilting books, and decorating books that I collected when we built the house. I’ll probably give the decorating books away soon because I like my home and won’t be making changes for a long time. These decorating books aren’t cherished because they aren’t an important part of my identity. I used them to create the home that does reflect who I am and the family I am a part of.
I have a place for books that represent and nurture my religious faith. Other shelves hold books about fibromyalgia, from and about places I have traveled to, and books on plants and landscaping. My bookcases also hold pictures of people who are important to my husband and me, both past and present. I guess I cherish these, because of the relationships they represent. I change them sometimes – as relationships change.
Many of my most cherished books have been my professional books. I loved my work, and what I did as a therapist and a college professor was closely tied to books – I used them all the time. Faculty have books – lots of them. And when people visit their office or cubical they look at their books. I did when I was a college student and visitors to my office looked at my books to find out who I was – because the books I had on my selves defined my professional interest and my areas of knowledge.
When it was time for me to retire it took several passes to decided which books to sell, which to give away, and which ones I needed/wanted to keep. It took several weeks because I was breaking down a part of my identity. In a way I was sorting out who I was and who I would still be after I retired. I ended up keeping only those books that had shaped my thinking and impacted on my professional activities. These were the books that were most interesting and written by people who had a major impact in their field. They are the books that I have put in the bookcase across from where I sit in my reading room.
I have also placed items on these shelves that remind me of who I was and what I did during those years. The items in these bookcases have helped me transition into living a life that is different because of the impact of having fibromyalgia and growing older. They are cherished because of the memories they evoke of fun times, professional relationships, professional accomplishments, and because they are a part of who I was and who I still am.
My bookcases are going to need some work soon. I am reinventing myself and will need to make room for my new interests. I have started buying photography books. Actually I started buying books of photography a long time ago because somewhere deep down I was inspired by how pictures could tell stories or capture beauty.
I’ve been thinking that I might have to clear out some of those professional books, the ones that aren’t so important, to make room for the books I’ve been buying on how to use my new camera and how to make good images. I’m excited about the changes that are taking place in my life now that I have the time to travel and a new reason to go. And my cherished books reflect those changes.
Check out this Weekly Writing Challenge at http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/weekly-writing-challenge-a-few-of-my-favorite-things/