Material girl

“I have not been inordinately materialistic, but I am attached to my house, to my inherited belongings, and to the things that I have chosen for myself. All these objects add complexity to my emotional ties to the people with whom I have shared, and share, my life, and to my aspirations for myself.”

-Ann Truitt, Turn: The Journal of an Artist

As a child, I was enormously attached to my stuff. One of my worst fears was fire; I arranged my bedroom so that my most precious stuff was near the window, ready to be chucked out if the unthinkable happened. But in my mind, it was all precious — I was terrified of losing a shred of my belongings, and even tried to figure out a way to get my bed through the window before the house burned down.

Have I mentioned that I was a weird kid?

Not once did I entertain the notion that losing all my stuff might lead to me getting better stuff. No, my bedroom furniture, purchased used, was more precious to me than a brand-new princess bedroom set with a canopy bed. And every book, toy, and article of clothing was irreplaceable. Not to mention my writing, my artwork, my collections and mementos. The thought of losing a single belonging kept me up many a night.

There are a few items in my possession now that I feel this strongly about, but not many. Generally speaking, I could walk away from everything I own without batting an eye. Which doesn’t explain why I have so bloody much stuff, but still. I think it says something about who I’ve become in the intervening years that my feelings about my belongings have changed so drastically.

Or maybe it’s just that, thanks to technology, my most treasured possessions are now in the cloud.

But seriously, it’s more that my priorities lie in other areas now. It’s my family I couldn’t live without. Which is how it should be.

I think part of the way I felt as a kid was simply by virtue of the fact that I was a kid. Anya (and to an increasing extent Kai) exhibits the same level of attachment I remember feeling. She, too, carefully catalogs her belongings, and knows when one is missing. (How, I do not know…you should see this kid’s room.) Her belongings are her treasures. No matter how cheap and useless they are.

This is not to say that I don’t have strong feelings for the things I own. My assortment of crapola is more refined these days; I buy with an eye for quality over quantity, and am more apt to curate a collection of family heirlooms and well-made, functional, beautiful items than cram my rooms full of stuff for the sake of stuff. Much of what I have kept, what I have moved with me from place to place, was either passed down through generations or carefully, lovingly selected with the overall flow of my life in mind.

And will be replaced with an equal amount of care once my kids destroy it all.

My belongings are a reflection of my personality, my values, and my lifestyle. They are, in a sense, me.

Maybe that’s why I’ve taken the loss of my grandparents’ house so hard: Because I know that in a few decades, every trace of me will likely be erased.

Two years ago, I had two living grandparents. Now, they are gone. Their house is gone. Everything they did and were and loved is…gone. Just gone.

I wasn’t close to them, but it bothers me, deeply, to think that everything they had could just…not be there. They spent 50 years creating a home, and now it’s a road. Makes me feel a little silly for wanting so desperately to buy a house and put down roots. For what?

So maybe there is more to stuff than I’ve given it credit for.

*Fun fact: When “Material Girl” came out, I was unfamiliar with the use of that adjective to mean possessions or wealth. My mother sewed in her free time, so to me, material meant fabric. Which means I thought Madonna was way more wholesome than she turned out to be.


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