Stories, Artifacts, and Boxes in the Garage

image by chuck seedfarmer

I haven’t mentioned it much on the blog, but my husband and I separated in the spring. It was not somewhere I had ever wanted to be, even though I think it was necessary and right at the end, and we have remained, above all other differences, our son’s parents first and finally. So I moved. And I left things behind and came back to the place where I grew up and have a plethora of family that can help a single mother. But I left things behind.

My son’s father delivered a trailer of some of those things a couple of weeks ago. He was kind enough to pack them up and send them north along with some of our furniture, so I’ve spent the past couple of weeks sifting through books and artifacts, some from when we were first married, some toward the end when our tastes were different and we had grown closer in some ways and dramatically apart in others. All my books made the trip, along with my bookcases (thank goodness), and so I have been unpacking.

I’m not a sentimental person when it comes to objects. Other than a very few things like a childhood toy that I still have and my grandmothers’ china and silver, I’m not terribly attached to things. So it will probably come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that the first boxes I unpacked contained my books.

And I thought about packing and unpacking while I organized them. I thought about the things we keep and the things we are willing to leave. (Old Nora Roberts novel in the donate pile, Michael Ondaatje on the shelf.) And I realized while I was thinking about these things and unpacking my books that each one that I keep in the main bookcases (Calvin and Hobbes collection on the bottom shelf where son can discover them, D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths a little higher) was an artifact in its own way. Not the physical book in most cases, but the story and the memories attached.

The Hobbit, which I remember reading as a child around the dinner table with my family, and The Lord of the Rings, which at one point in my life I reread every year like a kind of ritual. The Captain’s Verses, by Neruda, which was small, so I carried a copy in my backpack the summer I went to Europe and was a gypsy. A Room with a View, Charms for the Easy Life, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. All stories that, more than any object, bring a wash of memories and feelings to my head.

Stories are my artifacts. And more than the things in my life (most of which I’m not vitally attached to), the stories will travel with me forever, even if I lose the physical objects that contain them. Some will give me a momentary pleasure, like a pretty vase I use for a few years, then pass on to someone else. Some will be bring wonderful, magical memories. And others will bring pain that will make me stumble. But like every object packed in those boxes crowding my garage, at one point they had a purpose in my life. I learned from them, ignored them, loved them, hated them. And each one was another small point—positive or negative—in the journey my life has taken. Because every story serves a purpose.

What story is your artifact? Talk to me. (There’s a comments section for a reason.) What book has transformed you some way, be it positive or negative?

Posted in Books, Family, Life and tagged , , , , .

8 Comments

  1. My youth was a mix with Tolkien, Narnia and Nancy Drew, but the biggest love i had was for Anne of Green Gables *happy sigh* Oh, and Enid Blyton!! Not to forget.. .
    During my education (network technitian and computer tech) i lost all my urge to read. Big books with tech does that, to me, at least.
    But i´ve been making up for that hiatus, =) these last years. Now i read PNR, Regency, shifters, vampires and smexin hot books i never thought i could read in public *he he* TG for Kindle and i´m not sorry for the loss of covers =D
    Sorry to hear about you breaking up but at least you´re civil to each other.
    Being a couple and in a relationship makes that seem soo daunting.
    I´m sure it´ll happen one way or another, but i hope i´ve got years still before having to think about it. =)

    best wishes & Happy Saturday!
    //Linda

  2. Books and reading have been and always will be my refuge. As a child reading was my sanctuary in a literate if tumultuous (alcohol abuse) household. In my adult years, it is my shelter from a world that is often more complicated and frightening than even Stephen King could devise. From the Bobbsey Twins of my earliest childhood to Nancy Drew in my preteen years to Ian Fleming, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, D. H. Lawrence, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and George Eliot in my teens and twenties…that was my foundation.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have any of my childhood books left. We moved often during my childhood and books were usually the first things to go into the trash pile. I may not have the books, but I do have the memories and am frequently called to read them again.

    In later years, my reading choices more often reflect guilty pleasure rather than intellectual development. I went through the Nora Roberts/Janet Evanovich/Lisa Scottoline phase and have pretty much moved beyond them. I still love the scene writing of Stephen King, the humor of Charlaine Harris and Molly Harper, and the Odd Thomas series of Dean Koonce. I had mixed feelings about The 50 Shades of Gray series, but I did appreciate how the writer’s talents seemed to improve with each book.

    I read a lot of fan fiction and am continually blown away by the creativity and quality of writing that is available for free. Yes, there is some real garbage out there in FF land, but I still applaud those people who take the risk to write even though they may get negative comments from time to time. When reading FF, I try to leave comments that are specific and meant as constructive criticism, but I have learned that FF writers requests for feedback most often means ‘praise’ rather than constructive literary criticism. I understand it…writing is hard and we want people to appreciate if not love the effort.

    I know I have rambled on way too long, but you requested comments about the literary artifacts of our lives. My touchstone is this quote from Omar Kayyam:

    The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
    Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
    Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
    Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it

    Those words have stayed with me since I read them for the first time when I was 14 years old. What we write with our lives is our legacy. One aspect of mine will be the legacy of having brought up two children who, like me find a little of their solace, joy, pleasure and wonder in books.

    • The first book I remember reading was Little Red Riding Hood, I was 4. That being said, I have no memory of not being able to read. It was a part of my everyday life. My Mother read to me everyday and then I read to her. There were numerous favorites, but Uncle Remus and the brothers Grimm were much loved. At 55, I still have these books. During school I made it a point to befriend the librarian. They were a constant source of good reads. In the third grade Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion was my first adventure and from then on I was hooked. Later, the geek in me had to read the classics. Shakespeare and Dickens were particular favorites. And then, of course, there were the Bronte sisters and Jane Austin, just what every angst ridden teenager needs. Towards the end of high school I found Taylor Caldwell and found how profound words could be. I think it was the first time a book made me cry. The poetry of Kahlil Gribran spoke to me as a young woman and then when my daughter was little the poetry of Shel Silverstein filled me with glee. As an adult, I still love to read. I’ve always got at least one book going. I adored Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and yes even Twilight. Books are my gateway to adventure, my escape from…. well just about everything and the food my mind needs to survive.

  3. I was kind of a late book bloomer, in that I didn’t really get in to books until about the sixth grade. Not that I hated reading, but we had to read several books that semester, and chapter books at that, I think it was the first time we had read more than one book in a semester. And my parents aren’t big readers, so I didn’t get that push from an early age to read a lot, so I missed out on quite a few of the kid classics. Anyway, the first book I had to read was Island of the Blue Dolphins and I zoomed through it, and it was like it opened a door. Something had been missing in my life and reading was it. I couldn’t wait to read the rest of the books we had to read and I was impatient because we only had so many copies and other groups were reading the other books. But through that book and developing a love for reading at that time, it really helped me keep my sanity and survive middle school and most of high school. I got picked on a lot by my classmates and books gave me a way to escape that; I could just tune them out and be in my book’s world… And I have never again read the Island of the Blue Dolphins, but it really made a difference.

    Another book that really changed me was Little House in the Big Woods and the subsequent Laura Ingalls Wilder series. I read those several times through middle school and even picked them up in college when things were really sad and I needed a feel-good story in a pinch. I fell in love with those books and I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve read them at this point.

    Lastly, Guilty Pleasures, the first book in the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter Series also made a huge difference. It was the first supernatural book I had read, I think I was a freshman in high school. Now I love the entire genre and most of the books I read have some kind of supernatural part to them. Vampires, werewolves, magic, I love them all! It was also the first series that I started following and eagerly awaiting the new book every year.

  4. This might sound like a generic answer in this day and age, but it’s my answer none the less. The books that have left the biggest impact on me, that have helped shape me into the young woman that I am today, are the Harry Potter books.

    I hated reading as a child, except the books that came with my American Girl dolls that were so short I could finish them in a day. I would have rather been outside running in the woods with my friends or riding my horse, I hated being stuck inside. It wasn’t until one of my closest friends read The Sorcerer’s Stone and practically made me pick me up.

    I’ve never looked back since. Reading has become so much a part of who I am that it is the first thing people know about me and the first thing they think of when my name is mentioned. Reading became my outlet, when I was tired of the reality that I lived in or was all alone in another new town. To be able to just forget about everything- even for just a few hours- and to become someone completely different while reading a book is something almost sacred to me. Many people don’t understand that, even friends who love to read as much as I do.

    If it wasn’t for Harry and JK Rowling, I might never had realized how amazing and magical the written world can be and may never have found my dream of becoming a writer like my favorite authors.

    I read practically whenever I have a free moment now, especially now that I got a Kindle, and I wouldn’t ever want to change that for anything. I would rather have my nose deep in a book then glued to the TV any day. Even those gut wrenching feelings I get when I finish a book that has a minor/major cliff hanger and it’s MONTHS until the next book comes out. I may want to scream or throw something, but I would never want to stop getting those feelings.

  5. My own stories are my artifacts. I am not a novelist or a professional writer and no dream of writing the “great novel”, but I did start blogging a little over 5 years ago and I love writing short stories of things in my life that I want to share and remember.

    For me, the posts either flow smoothly and I publish or they don’t and I save them as drafts…sometimes they come right and sometimes they don’t. In the process of blogging I re-discovered a love for photography…started when I was 16 with a pawn shop camera my father gave me…

    As time as evolved, my stories mostly revolve around photos. It is an interesting [to me!] process in that sometimes the story that makes it to the blog is nothing like what I thought it would be when I started writing.

    I found you and the Elemental mysteries recently and am entranced and enthralled. They remind me of things that I want, things that are important to me. I see those things in your telling of the story and that is a good thing! Yes, your stories are wonderful entertainment but they also make me think.

    And I have my mother (77 to my 57) to thank for introducing me to your books. I doubt that I would have selected one from any synopsis. We share a library – another wonderful thing as we expose each other to things we might not have read otherwise :)!

    Memories, relationships, sharing of thoughts and ideas – those are my artifacts. Stuff – not very much. I live in a 1 bedroom house on 8 wooded acres in rural northwest Montana. I work from a home office. I have a dog and a cat and the mountains, the woods, fresh air and decent internet. I do not have regular tv, but I do stream some things…mostly I am years behind. i love my life. I love stories and memories.

    Thank you Elizabeth! Thank you for your stories and for your thought provoking posts.

    From another Elizabeth….Liz…in Montana.

  6. My own stories are my artifacts. I am not a novelist or a professional writer and no dream of writing the “great novel”, but I did start blogging a little over 5 years ago and I love writing short stories of things in my life that I want to share and remember.

    For me, the posts either flow smoothly and I publish or they don’t and I save them as drafts…sometimes they come right and sometimes they don’t. In the process of blogging I re-discovered a love for photography…started when I was 16 with a pawn shop camera my father gave me…

    As time as evolved, my stories mostly revolve around photos. It is an interesting [to me!] process in that sometimes the story that makes it to the blog is nothing like what I thought it would be when I started writing.

    I found you and the Elemental mysteries recently and am entranced and enthralled. They remind me of things that I want, things that are important to me. I see those things in your telling of the story and that is a good thing! Yes, your stories are wonderful entertainment but they also make me think.

    And I have my mother (77 to my 57) to thank for introducing me to your books. I doubt that I would have selected one from any synopsis. We share a library – another wonderful thing as we expose each other to things we might not have read otherwise :)!

    Memories, relationships, sharing of thoughts and ideas – those are my artifacts. Stuff – not very much. I live in a 1 bedroom house on 8 wooded acres in rural northwest Montana. I work from a home office. I have a dog and a cat and the mountains, the woods, fresh air and decent internet. I do not have regular tv, but I do stream some things…mostly I am years behind. i love my life. I love stories and memories.

    Thank you Elizabeth! Thank you for your stories and for your thought provoking posts.

    From another Elizabeth….Liz…in Montana.

    p.s. I tried a comment last night and flunked the WordPress login…wrote the above today and saved it…flunked again!… trying a 3rd time. SO – if there are 2 others, hopefully they disappear into the ether.

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