There’s a wonderful little thing called material culture out there in the wide, wide world. It refers to objects created by mankind that can reflect the ideas associated with that culture. For instance, an archeologist can tell a lot about a people by looking through their trash heap: what they eat or don’t eat, things they don’t value or do value, even their practices, beliefs, or how they hold things in worth or not. Art museums use the term material culture quite a bit, since they are after all in the business of deducing what paintings, sculptures, or memorabilia deserve pedestal space.
Material culture is an interesting thing to contemplate in today’s world of overflowing trash receptacles. Some of us (or you, rather) may regularly go through your closets and throw things out because they aren’t worth the space. Such a valuation would devastate someone from a different place and time—or even just a different side of town. You see, you can tell a lot about a person from their trash heap. (This is actually how the aliens are going to take us over—they will learn to control our lives by discovering our desires and values one midden heap at a time...)
Then there are the things that a person just can’t get rid of. I’d like to choose ten (scratch that—eleven) objects in my house that I like a lot. These things may be a bit odd sounding as they’re things I’ve considered throwing out several times, but I just can’t seem to do it in the end. Whether they are telling of me and mine remains to be seen. It’s an experiment. Let’s see what happens:
1. My paternal grandmother’s old sweater has 1 inch brown buttons up the front. It is made of cream yarn and is amazingly warm. It is also ragged and I am embarrassed to wear it out of the house. Despite this, I wear it every day. (I just change before I leave).
2. I have a collection of textile and leather upholstery samples that I got off my brother when he worked for a design firm. I take them out of their little drawer and touch them, swearing to make something wonderful from them someday.
3. I like sparkly things like glass beads. I also have a drawer full of these. Luckily, they’ve turned out to be a great little toy for Eva. She doesn’t eat them (much) and I pull them out whenever I just can’t take motherhood anymore.
4. On his mission, my husband was given a cloth bag filled with corn that can be microwaved over and over again. I use this several times a day to warm up my feet.
5. I collect huge blank canvases, and other art supplies. Sometimes I am actually sad to see paint go on these white behemoths. Their blank faces have kept me company for so long…
6. I cherish my new pasta maker/roller thingy. It is even better than the popsicle molds that I’ve used once.
7. I love my 10 year old Graphis magazines as well as a dry little book on Typography that I got back in my design days.
8. Also, I must speak of my other books: art history text books, a little brown volume of Lady of the Lake by Walter Scott, and an anthology of education books (meant to help elementary teachers) from sometime in the middle of the century that used to belong to my other grandmother. Also, I like blank sketchbooks and journals/notebooks.
9. In college, my friend Bre leant/gave me a retro sweater that her dad used to wear, presumably in his younger and cooler early Van Halen days. I love it so much.
10. Scarves, headbands, and other silky things that I never wear because they don’t match any of my clothes.
11. My recorder. I can play a mean Christmas song on that thing—and by ear too.
Finally, as I look over my truncated list of things I just can’t get rid of, I begin to see several patterns emerging. First, I bask in warmth often. Second, I am a dreamer who collects things that have potential but rarely get used. Also, I am a tactile person. I could take one of those online quizzes, maybe one called “Which mythological creature are you?” My answer: Pan perhaps. All I’m good for is lolling about in a warm woolen sweater while I taste grapes (or pasta) and enjoy the arts, perhaps occasionally playing on my proverbial pipes.