My World and Welcome to It.
It was about this time last year that we decided to rent the house. Yes, THAT one.
The house my grandparents built in 1942 … and which now, by some curious chance, has sheltered FIVE generations of the family.
What were the odds? If you’ve read OBJECTS OF OUR AFFECTION, you know the odds were supremely slim: This is a military family. And like many Americans, maybe most, we’re nomads. I counted once: Between the ages of 17 and 34, I personally moved 17 times.
But somehow we landed, and there we remained. Well, not really. More like, There we left our stuff. Five generations of it, ranging from my grandpa’s dress military uniform jacket and some evening garb of the grandmothers to my great-nephew’s discarded video games.
So it was June a year ago that we tackled the attic. See, we have this really small attic, and we had to empty as much as we could to make room for all the stuff that was actually occupying what you SEE of the house — we were renting it furnished, sort of, true. But there were lamps, books, clothes, bedding, dishes, oh my. You know. All the stuff you wouldn’t want someone else to have to cope with. Or break. Or lose. Or whatever.
It was a hell-bent-for-leather full month of eight-hour days in the heat. My sister and I sorted books, jewelry, stuffed animals, clothes, you name it. Oh, yeah, we didn’t just haul it out. SORT is the operative word. And that is why I am still here, updating this website. Because I know how many more people like us are out there. You can’t just throw it out. You have to sift through it.
And that, as I keep reminding us all, is because of the stories the stuff contains. Yep, folks, that’s it. That’s the heart of the problem. Until we’ve sifted the stories, the stuff remains.
The Internet, fortunately, is our new fireside. I mean, it is the place we gather around, sing our songs, tell our tales, listen to our shamans.
In the weeks ahead, I will be trying to recapture the heat, dust, sound and fury that accompanied our excavation of 1 Pendleton Place. Stay tuned … but please, if you have a moving/excavating/STUFF story of your own to tell, weigh in. Post a comment!
I just pulled out of my Baggallini a small chamois pouch that contains a stone from Wounded Knee. I was there, just about this time three years ago. The Wounded Knee cemetery sits on a bluff overlooking miles and miles of grassland belonging to the Pine Ridge Reservation…if the Lakota who live there wouldn’t laugh at the idea of grassland belonging to anyone. I hadn’t felt so free or so peaceful in a long time, as I felt on the reservation. Go figure.
But I went there for a less than peaceful reason. In the winter of 1891, my great-grandfather was dispatched from his infantry post in Wyoming to somewhere in South Dakota. The dates said he was probably one of hundreds of officers whose troops were sent to South Dakota just in case the Seventh Cavalry needed help. They didn’t, of course, need help in what I think is generally agreed to have been the infamous incident at the place we remember as Wounded Knee.
So I went there to get down on my knees at a stone monument weathered almost beyond reading, and to lay a little tobacco there, and to say a prayer. I’ve written about that and about the other things I learned about my family’s 200-some years as Americans and as a military family, in a book about the family furniture.
Part memoir, part military history, it is also a meditation on why we Americans are so attached to our stuff. Check it out at www.objectsofouraffection.com.
It’s a beginning …
About The Author
Lisa Tracy is a journalist and author of a number of books, including Objects of Our Affection, Muddy Waters: The Legacy of Katrina and Rita, and The Gradual Vegetarian. She served as Home and Design Editor and Sunday Magazine Managing Editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer. She teaches creative nonfiction.