We grew up in a family of nine, including my grandmother. Nothing private or personal. We rarely had belongings that we didn't share or weren't handed down, we didn't have spaces to sit alone and read or meditate. We had one bathroom. So when I moved to college that day after i graduated high school, i went right to my own apartment. No dorms, no sharing, no roommates. I was anxious to plop myself down on my own couch, throw up my legs and read carelessly for hours. My own kitchen, my own bedroom, my own bathroom. But as a seventeen year old without furniture, i ended up in a house with old ladies who also had "rooms." It didn't work out. I moved after the first two months.
By the time I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, I had seven different apartments. Moving is dreadful, I know, but then everything was put in a few boxes and a suitcase. I owned very little, needed only books, clothes, albums, a stereo, and kitchen stuff. One trunk full.
As I grew up as many of us do, I accumulated things and life required more electronics and tools and better kitchenware but i held off on furniture, almost forever. Being able to move in say two car trips meant i could stash stuff and take off on a backpacking trip in the Andes at any time. I never did but there was always that sense of mobility. And I wanted to keep it so each time I changed addresses, I purged belongings to try and keep the bundle the same. Hard questions needed to be answered: should i keep my introduction to astronomy book? is it worth moving my favorite mug even though it has a crack in it?
Mostly I'm good at throwing things out. But the hardest was my albums. In the many evolutions of my music system, i shed the turntable. I couldn't play the albums, but they were a kind of archive of my history. From the first one I bought Joni Mitchell, Song to Seagulls, to those I inherited, Ella sings Duke, my musical life marks my folk music stage, my protest movement life (remember Phil Ochs? I didn't think so), my devotion to jazz (Dave Brubeck was the first one i bought), my shameless love of early Barbra Streisand, acid rock and guitar licks, go Cream, Led Zeppelin, The Who...and the cover art. How many hours had I studied Sgt Pepper Lonely Heart's Club Band? Or the Moody Blues...Scratches on the vinyl, frays at the edges of the album covers, still they wrote some of my story. But they were also heavy to carry. Orange crate after orange crate delivered to the used record store. I told myself they would educate some poor child who had grown up with studio beats and dull guitar rhythms. Sigh.
I'm packing for a longish trip, again. And everytime I do, i try to get the same attitude of those younger years. What don't i need? I want to travel with one suitcase, a computer and a bag full of magazines and breath mints. The decisions aren't hard since it's only a trip and defines what I'll need (3 cameras, of course...dslr, snapshot, video). But the whole process makes me nostalgic for those mobile years. Putting my life in a trunk and getting keys to a new place and unpacking in two hours.
I look around my house and I have clearly graduated to ownership. It's revolting in a way that everywhere my eyes roam, they see clusters of candles, picture frames, exercise equipment, stacks of books in and out of shelves, pillows, decorative and useful, vases, reams of paper, potpourri in ceramic bowls, hanging textiles, binders, rugs, excessive amounts of dog toys and bones, artwork, lamps, expensive cookware, chopsticks, special cups and tea sets, beads, calendars...well, more than a trunk full.
Nevertheless, I am packed to go four days from now. One suitcase, clothes, shoes, cosmetics, electronics, gifts, books. One computer bag, and a purse, breath mints will be purchased soon. My music is on a little slip of an I-pod, smaller than my credit cards. Not a backpack anymore, but now i appreciate the wheels. And as I stroll through airports, my belongings trailing behind me, I cherish that one brief moment of feeling light, mobile, on-the-go, knowing that in two months, I'll be back home sleeping in my own sweet bed.
Causes Elmaz Abinader Supports