When I studied fiction in graduate school at Columbia College Chicago, we focused heavily on objects. When brainstorming or warming up for writing exercises in our four-hour evening classes, after long days at work and home and caring for families and tending to our lives, we were asked to visualize what objects were in a given space that we wanted to write about.
This is how I came to see the power of objects in fiction and life.
Disclaimer: I am not one who saves things. I am the one who always smacks myself in the head three days after pitching something I realize I needed. When I was young, my mother gave me objects to show her affection. It was her way. A Virgin Mary statue that she made in ceramics. A coffee cup with my name on it and a different adjective for each letter in my name (still have that one). Bookmarks. We had a difficult relationship. I came to see objects and gifts as something to be wary of.
I am older now. I am a mother now. I am more humble and understanding of the meaning behind objects, in fiction and in life. I have three objects that I treasure today. One is the broken watch that my birth father was wearing when he was killed on his motorcycle by a drunk driver. This was on Mother’s Day in 1969, three months after I was born. One month before I was placed for adoption. The second object is my grandmother’s watch. It is cheap and worn but funky and reminds me of her every time I hold it. I think of her penchant for saving rubber bands and every piece of aluminum foil (born of living through the Depression); organizing her refrigerator with her meager groceries (“No no no Christy! Apples go on THIS shelf); homemade chicken noodle soup; and attending Catholic Polish mass with her every week.
I always felt safe with her.
The third object is pictured here. It is a glass pig named Penelope, so goes the card that came with it. This object came to me on a whim by a friend who thought of me when she saw it. The card that came with it said that it represented strength and confidence even in the face of all odds – when pigs fly. 🙂
What I love about this object is that it is glass – tough yet still vulnerable to chips or damage (her tail is chipped but I love that too). It is transparent yet resilient. It represents strength and vulnerability and openness all at once. When I am feeling less than confident or down or just plain overwhelmed, it reminds me that I can do anything and I am loved. It reminds me of who I am. I hold this glass object in my hand and it gives me strength. I can’t explain it. It’s goofy, really. It’s just a pig. But it’s not, you know what I mean? It makes me think of the giver and the intention behind it and how she knew me, the real me, and knew that I would like it. It comforts me. She had no idea it would come to be so important to me. That this simple glass object would give me so much strength at a time in my life when I needed all the strength I could muster just to get through an hour, let alone a day.
Today I hold this object in my hand and am grateful for good friends. Grateful for simple things. Grateful for my life. This glass object reminds me of everyone and everything I have to be thankful for and everything I have to look forward to in my life. I am so thankful to be here.
Forget Black Friday. Think about what you already have. Don’t just buy things. Make it mean something. 🙂