We carry it all with us, all the things that we have done and we have seen and we have learned. And every human being is a story still being told. And every home is a sort of personal museum, being built slowly, one painstaking brick at a time.
What would a visitor to my home today expect to see there?
There are things that exist in my home because of the people and the places I’ve been to and I’ve met – and taking into account only the museums I’ve written about in this series, you could map my life, or at least a certain version of it, just by recognising where some of those things connect.
You would recognise the roots of my driving passion, words, by noticing that every room in my house contains books – on shelves, in piles on the coffee table, on the floor beside my bed – I live in a library full of tomes either well-beloved or yet to be discovered in to-be-read piles, full of authors I have yet to meet or those I’ve adored for years. Over and above that, I drink my tea out of a New York Public Library mug – with Patience (or is it Fortitude?) on it – full frontal on one side and full backal on the other.
You’ll find little animalcules – I kind of find them in places I go, and collect them, and one of them, for instance, is a tiny dog in a basket carved out of a single piece of coal. It serves to remind me of South Wales, where things aren’t just made of gold but where, also, mournful and empty terraced housing with “For Sale” signs weathered into near-illegibility by years of hopeless winds and rains, places where once the coal miners of South Wales made their homes.
You will find the occasional piece of origami made out of highly unlikely materials – the shiny wrapping that used to be around a piece of candy, for instance.
You will find muddled piles of earrings on the little cabinet in the bathroom, from plastic and cheap pretty enamel to the occasional dressier pair for somewhat more upmarket occasions, a nod to the jewellery cascade I remember from a long-ago museum exhibition hall. You might also find carvings inspired by a Polynesian culture – and certainly there is a nod to the other memory of that particular museum, with a beaded spider which someone once made for me, glittering with bright jewel colours, parked on top of my computer monitor glaring at me superciliously even as I type this.
You will find books on Nikola Tesla, and books on Old Japan.
You will find an original Tribble.
You will find a tiny icon of a more personal saint, St Avram, the one who rules over my family’s Slava – and on the same theme, on the CD rack, the “Best Of” Leonard Cohen with, of course, “Suzanne” on it.
You will find a small brown bear amongst my collection of plushes, and he still has on a fading sticker that commemorates the 750th anniversary of a certain city… and his name is Bearlin.
You will find a school brochure which has a certain Welsh castle on the front cover.
There are many other things, that build back to other places I’ve seen and assimilated and have mementos of. Pieces of driftwood from certain beaches I’ve visited. A Chinese dragon. A turkey’s feather. A bouquet of fragile dry roses, which I was given on my wedding day. A framed painting of artwork which ended up on one of my book covers. Tapestries I did with my own hand – on the wall and on cushion covers. A silly china rabbit with one of its ears busted and glued back on. A particular wine glass which takes me back to certain times and certain people. A pack of Tarot cards. A hand-made friendship bracelet given to be as a gift. A gargoyle bookend. A half-burned candle. A pile of photographs. My grandfather’s fountain pen, busted and leaking if attempts are made to actually use it but rich in memory. A sketchbook where some of my admittedly amateur pencil drawings still lurk. A pile of letters. Old postcards. Fridge magnets. A lump of black lava from the side of a New Zealand volcano. A Latin dictionary.
Every one of us does this, to a degree – you attach yourself to certain things, to certain memories, and if someone was annotating your life they would tag these items in the museum of your days and they would be important, some day, artefacts with the aid of which, piece by piece, some expert down the years would be able to reconstruct the whole of you.
So, then, this is my own museum, my house, my life. Come on in, Ladies and Gentlemen. It is a glimpse into the mind of a woman and a writer, telling you the things she learned along the way. It is still a work in progress, at this time, but see it being built, little by little, experience by experience, a little piece of wisdom and knowledge at a time. Come and see the things she carried.
rdeck says that I’m cheating; that my basic premise is that everything has a story, and that I am not telling the stories of any of these things, and the stories are what makes them relevant, and important, and REAL. He is, of course, right. I might address that question in a future post – but this one, this is a coda to the Museum Series, and I’d like to leave you thinking about things a little bit, here at the close of the year… Come 2011, I might have a different short series planned, if all y’all want to read about it. One of my Christmas presents was the new Bill Bryson book – and he’s doing in that precisely what I wanted to do with the new series. He’s writing about his OWN house, his OWN rooms, his OWN life… and then connecting those things to ideas which spring from the context of a particular room. I might give you a story about old recipes and how the generations before me used to eat in an entry about the kitchen, for instance; a story about the advent of computers in an entry about the office; a story about relationships in the entry about the bedroom; a story about the birth of civilisation as we know it in an entry about bathrooms with indoor plumbing. You game for this…?