Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Provenance of Things or Dear Rob A

Dear Rob A,

It's been more than 21 years since our wedding, but today I was folding the sheets you gave us, the double-bed sheets that are royal blue and purple, kind of an Aztec print. Maybe the sheets that a young guy buys for the sister of his ex-girlfriend when she gets married.

Anyhow, I thought you'd like to know that those sheets are still with us, and they spend the summer on my six-foot tall son's futon mattress, and I've now replaced them for the colder months with fuzzier sheets.

I think about the provenance of things sometimes. I survey my own clothes and remember that this shirt came from Value Village, the scarf from Italy, the jeans from Reitmans, the socks from Quebec, from that trip we took.

Or it could be wedding gifts. The cozy blanket we stared at aghast when we opened it after the wedding became our go-to keep-us-warm blanket for a million years, that now keeps the dog warm at night.

Sometimes we get gifts or buy things and they get integrated into our life and we don't think about where they came from. Sometimes we remember to check labels before we buy, avoiding products and produce from places where things are produced badly and people are treated poorly.

But sometimes we remember. I called a great aunt this week for a phone number and we chatted for a few minutes and I felt deeply rooted in my family, even though this is a woman I see once a year only, if there are no funerals.

In Ithaca this summer, I noted that the provenance of food was more important than the provenance of people. Ithaca is not a place where one is shunned for being from away: most people are, many have found the place and stayed. But where your food comes from --- ah, now that matters. The market has a strict 30-mile radius, and when we stopped at the deli (The Piggery) for sandwiches, the woman at the counter greeted us with "what can I tell you about our food?" I didn't know what to ask so I said, "What should I want to know?" and she told me how the pigs were raised and slaughtered and prepared. And then we ate glorious pulled pork piled high.

Knowing, remembering where we, our stuff, and our food come from matters.

I don't know where you've gone, Rob A. Maybe I could find you on LinkedIn or Facebook. But I thought of you today as I turned the sheets and folded them away into the cupboard once more. And I was grateful that you were in my life, even for a short season.

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