Tag Archives: lost

collectin’

When I was little girl and my family moved to Montana, my brother and I started spending hours collecting rocks on the  foothill behind our house. We had an old coffee can and our main ambition was to find quartz and smokey quartz crystals to put in it. This entailed scanning the ground while we walked with sharp attention to detail. Any glimmer required some dirt scratching to see what treasure we’d unearthed. My brother also got into panning for gold and tumbling rocks. He was much more committed than I.

Years later, I still find myself staring at the ground for treasures as I walk along. S., now three years old, has inherited the passion distraction. Yesterday we walked D. to the train station so he could catch a flight home to the U.S.. It was raining quite heavily, but S. and I plodded along, hand in hand, scanning the ground for treasures. She picked up little leaves and said, “It’s for my collection.” Or, “I’m collectin’ this for you, Mommy.” So far this week, in addition to numerous interesting leaves and flowers we would never see in Kansas, we’ve seen some possum poo, interesting skinks, and very speedy caterpillars scooting down the hill in the rain.

S. and I glued our collected leaves (but not the poo, bugs or skinks) to a piece of scrap cardboard. We showed it to D. and it went into the recycling bin a few days later. I love seeing beauty in the little things, but need I worry about S’s new fascination with collecting every pretty little flower or seed she finds on the ground? Each one she drops, she shrieks, “Oh! My flower!” and I try to brush it off so she won’t keep thinking about what was lost. In the meantime, yesterday, I told D. I really still wanted to find my umbrella that I last saw in Florida in 2010.

Collecting is a fun activity. I just need to keep working on the letting go part of it.

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why we collect stuff

In case you missed it, the New York Times ran a collection of pieces in Room for Debate on 30 December 2011, “Why We Collect Stuff.” Randy O. Frost defines the moment when collecting becomes hoarding, and Philipp Blom has a well-written piece, “Objects of Desire and Dreams.” Blom explains:

Collected objects are like holy relics: conduits to another world. They have shed their original function and become totems, fetishes. Collecting by its very nature is animist and transcendental.

The objects and their organization bind us to something larger than ourselves, and as religion was born out of a fear of death and the wish of eternal life, collecting expresses the same fundamental urges.

This gets to the crux of my interest in memory and hoarding. The objects we cling to attempt to say something about ourselves and tie us to a broader spectrum of people, eternalizing both the objects and the sentiments behind them. The object becomes symbol of both self and community.

This works for collecting, but what about hoarding? The desire to preserve begins the same but the attachment to the object seems to be as linked to decay and destruction as it is to safeguarding. Amassing the sheer volume of things surpasses the ability to control and the collection implodes. Items are lost in the debris even if they remain in the hoarder’s memory.

 

oh christmas crap

The solution to the Christmas accumulation conundrum was to buy a small fake pine, about S.’s size, a package of mixed mini candy canes, some small santa koalas from the dollar store and about three other little trinkets. In total this decoration cost about $45, plus the $50 that flew out of my pocket somewhere in my neighborhood while I was walking home with the tree. (Happy Christmas, stranger who finds it!) The fact that I lost something bothers me more than the cost. Accumulator, I am.

Nonetheless, the little tree, not particularly well photographed here, was fun to decorate, only took a few minutes suiting S’s attention span, and part of it is edible. You can’t beat that. Or maybe you can. Tell me: do you other COH’s have a problem with Christmas decorations?

D. told me he couldn’t care less if there was a tree or not. I felt I needed one to get in the mood since it’s summer here. I put on some rocking Christmas tunes (including Elvis’s “Blue Christmas” and some more shameful hits), and genuinely enjoyed the time with our daughter. She was mostly interested in playing with the koalas, but she did dance a bit and asked for more Christmas songs. Frosty the Snowman was a big hit.

soliciting input on hoarding output

For those of you readers who are or have been personally impacted by hoarding, I would love your input on some questions I’m teasing out in my research.

I’m working on “Hoarding Memory” as a manifestation of loss in autobiography, but right now my questions are specifically related to the consequences of hoarding. It seems to me that hoarders hoard because they want to hold on to things, can’t bear to part with them, and then the accumulation over time becomes a sort of comforting nest, even if an isolating one. Although the intention is to save or salvage scraps,the sheer quantity of items quickly creates a storage problem. Consequently, the hoarded things that are meant to be preserved instead become inaccessible, forgotten, lost, and many times destroyed.

From your perspective, what are the other consequences of hoarding either on the objects accumulated or on the person who has accumulated them? Those of us who are in someway related to the hoarder are obviously impacted to varying degrees, so I welcome that insight as well.

Many thanks in advance for sharing.

memory for stuff

For the past month my daughter and I have been searching for her Fisher Price pig that goes with her farm set. It nagged at me that I couldn’t place it, although I could identify the last time I’d seen it and the possible last places it could be lingering. Then, over the weekend, I was sorting through her pajama drawer when suddenly the pig emerged. I almost screamed out of joy, “Look who I found!” There was much celebrating with the pig that night as he drank and drank from his favorite bottle.

Lost objects weigh on me. They plague me. I cannot let them go. I lost my iPad stylus overnight on Saturday and on Sunday I emptied out my backpack and diaper bag looking everywhere for it. D. said jokingly, “It’s probably on your desk.” I took him seriously and checked. There it was. I probably spent an hour looking for something that was in the most obvious place.

And so it goes in this house as I seek to match PollyPocket shoes and accessories, identifying what’s gone missing. The moment this began in my life is as clear as the many objects I geographically map in my mind. I was about seven years old, standing in the hallway in my childhood home, asking my dad where a certain toy was. “Ask your mother,” he said. “She knows where everything is.”

I asked her and she knew the exact spot where the random item had been abandoned. I was amazed and took note, “This is behavior to emulate.” And since that time it’s always been important to me to know exactly where all of my stuff is. Now that there is a child in my life (and to be clear, she’s fairly tidy for a two year old), there’s only that much more stuff to catalog in my brain. I’m sure I’ve wasted more salary hours by tracking than the objects would cost to replace, but I still have not lost little items from my own childhood, at least until now as I choose to part with them.

objets retrouvés

Lost and found

I went to my office on Saturday to clean out anything that mattered to me and any confidential papers that shouldn’t be left about for a stranger to read. Someone will be using my desk for the remainder of the semester and this was a good motivation to bring home more books. Two boxes were donated, four came home with me, and of those I’ve already begun a pile of what should be sold or recycled.

Waiting for me on my desk were a few VHS tapes I had converted to DVD. Just moments ago I checked the DVD made of “Outremer” (Overseas) by Brigitte Roüan, the story of three French sisters from Algeria and how they confronted the end of colonization, each in her own way. I had used this film as an undergraduate student in an art history project, I have loved it and revisited it over the years, but had more or less abandoned the video cassette on a shelf for the past five.

My heart lept when I saw it play here on my computer screen. How accessible this movie suddenly became, how joyfully familiar, its grainy images comforting me as nostalgia bubbled over. Once a cult object, much like my beloved copy of Les Pieds Noirs by Marie Cardinal, now it is so close to me, I wonder if its charm will wear off.

moment of joy

Sifting through yet another box of “junk” from storage today, I stumbled upon a lost treasure. A number of years ago, I visited Iraq and presented teaching strategies in a workshop for Kurdish university professors. Our trip was so short that the only shopping I did was for camera batteries. My counterpart from the English department at the University of Dohuk, however, exchanged a 1 dirham coin for a U.S. silver dollar that I had with me. While I’ve held on to a 250 Dinar bill with Saddam’s picture on it for all these years, I haven’t seen the coin since 2004. I was convinced it was lost during a move.

Today I found a pen that was given to me as a token of appreciation at the workshop. My coin was nestled in the bottom of the giftbox. A moment of real joy swept over me when the coin dropped into my hand. It almost gives me hope that my grandfather’s trick coin is not truly lost. Incidentally, I discovered another “tiniest penny” in a jewelry box last week. Two of those (when in my memory only one existed), but still no trick penny. How is it my moments of joy at finding are so quickly shadowed by loss and absence?