Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Story of Stuff

When I got married in 1991, forest green and dusty rose were the big colours. Before my nine (or was it ten?) bridal showers, I was required to register for china, silver, bedroom linens, towels, and teapots. (Did you know that the number of teapots you receive -- chuckle, chuckle -- tells you how many kids you'll have? We received eight. Or was it nine?)

Some of the registering and the gifts seemed over the top, even then, but others felt terrific. Having been the Emptier-of-the-Dishwasher for many years growing up, I welcomed the opportunity to have all matching cutlery. In fact, I'm still really fond of my flatware, more than two decades later.

But lately, I've noticed a new phenomenon creeping into my life: I've started to embrace the mix-matchedness of things. A few years back we emptied my grandfather's hoarder house, and I brought home some pale green glass bowls and a small crystal pitcher. (And a few bow ties.) Another time, a friend offered us dinner plates that had been his mother's. (She had many, many sets. We took eight plates and use them regularly.) Last year, I took possession of my grandma's recipe book, but also her Corningware mixing bowls and some small juice glasses. Our kitchen no longer lines up neatly and tidily, with all white plates, but it tells a story.

And it doesn't end there. As I walk the dog around the neighbourhood, I look at houses. What intrigues me, day after day, is not the magazine-perfect homes, but the quirky ones. The one with the collection of frogs poised around a small well. The one with china horses arranged in a window. The one with stained glass hanging in the centre of a picture window. The ones that tell the story of a life that is unique and unashamed.

It takes money to have all your things match. It takes courage to live your own life. I wonder as I walk, what goes on in the different houses. Are they all watching the same television shows -- or are some of them constructing scale models and composing music together? Are they all surfing the web or are some of them hooking rugs of their own design?

As I said, I still like my matchy-matchy cutlery. I have no plans to curate either frogs or china horses. But more and more, I want to live freely and to let my life tell its story, and to let my stuff do the same.

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