I often believe it is human nature to collect things. Things represent who we are to those that don’t know us. We collect them sometimes for material gain, for status, but sometimes, we collect them for memory.
When I was younger I loved to collect magnets from all the places I visited. When I got older I understood that these magnets never reminded me of my trip or anything that happened to me while I was away from home. They gathered dust on the fridge or in a box where I couldn’t see them.
In the last 5 years, I decided that I would collect earrings from my trips. They were small and easy to store and earrings are my most worn sort of jewelry. I’m not a big adornment person, but I almost always wear earrings. Each of these pairs of earrings remind me of a memory.
The Cleveland, OH pair I bought while staying with my friend Sue. We went to a lovely tea house, the botanical gardens, art museums, and poetry readings. We ate at great restaurants, got lost, met new people, had drinks. I remember all of these things from those beautiful African seed earrings.
The Bristol, England pair remind me of my first taste of freedom from a long and tiring relationship. After 16 years I was abroad rediscovering myself. I fell in love. I sat in gardens behind ancient churches, I drank Pimms, I road the tube, I rented a flat off of White Ladies Road. I lived in England for a week. I realized in that time that there was so much more to my life than I had ever imagined.
The Kansas City pair of earrings were bought at a small museum. I was there for a poetry festival. I ate insanely delicious barbecue. I saved a woman from falling into a diabetic coma. I met some dear friends for the first time. I melted in the heat and the history of the South. It was after this trip I was first diagnosed with hypothyroidism.
The Albany pair was from a Mother’s Day Tulip Festival that I went to with my daughter. She road a horse for the first time. We played in the flowers. We laughed and ate fair food. We enjoyed the beauty of being together.
The Ottawa pair envelop one of the first driving trips I took by myself. I was supposed to go to Cleveland for a poetry reading, but decided I wanted to go to one in Ottawa. I stayed in a hostel that used to be a prison. I walked all over the city, ate great Thai food, saw Notre Dame, and gave a poetry reading to the most attentive crowd of people I had ever encountered. From this reading I met wonderful people who invited me to a benefit and then to a potluck at their home. I saw one of the most amazing art exhibits of my life and was drunk on the beauty of this city.
The Tucson pair remind me of visiting my cousins for the first time in 20 years. I brought my daughter with me and we went to a fair. We drove to Phoenix and saw the Mystery House. She made new friends and I rekindled the friendships with my cousins I had so neglected over the years. I saw my uncle in prison. The memories of my childhood in the desert came rushing back to me.
The Worcester pair are ones full of mixed feelings. They culminate a failed relationship, but also remind me of the best parts of that love when it was fresh and new.
The Seattle pair feel like home to me. I took my daughter back there to see where she was conceived. I showed her the ocean and the mountain and all the wonderful things the city had to offer. We stayed with my dear friend Kim and saw everything we could.
The final pair….the ones from my mother…are the most special. She gave them to me when my relationship ended. She told me not to be jaded and gave me jade earrings. She told me there was too much time wasted in the world on being bitter. I thought it funny at the time because she was always jaded by everything that had happened to her in the world, but somewhere inside, she knew these earrings would serve to remind me over and over that there is more to life.
I looked through my jewelry box and some of the earrings in there have lost their meaning to me. They have evolved to just jewels, but some of them, these blessed pairs of shiny, pretty girl things still carry the weight of memory in their metal and facets.