There’s a reason I’m so obsessive about documenting and preserving and discussing items (and therefore, people) that came before us. Hell, at the bar the other night, I passed around my iPhone recorder and made all of my friends speak a message to their future children over cocktails. The image of our collective kids listening to this message– when they’re old enough for all of the cursing– and ‘meeting’ their parents in the age before they came into the world… Kind of self-explanatory, right? Don’t you wish you had a recording of your parents talking mess about you before you even existed? Before they were parents?
This post is about a teak bookend that belonged to my mom, who passed away when I was 15. She was 43 years old.
Mom was a private person to an extreme, especially when compared to me and my tendency to over share. Getting her to talk about herself was like pulling teeth. And of course at 15 years of age the idea of a parent dying is so far off, so out of the question that you don’t think to ask the right questions. Now I’m 27 and I don’t know all that I should. You think you have all this time talk to your parents, to know them as adults, beyond being just your parent. I won’t ever know, so I’m left with bits and pieces that I try to pull together to make a whole. This bookend is one of those pieces.
When Mom died, my grandmother cleared out the two-bedroom apartment she lived in. Having such a small space meant she didn’t have more than furniture and clothing occupying the space and I’m not even sure where most of that went. This is the only item of hers, beyond treasured photos, notes and cards, that I have in my home.
My mom grew up between Taipei and Laos. My grandfather was an army major and she didn’t live in the US until college when she moved to San Francisco. Somehow this little bookend made it across oceans and the country and now lives in my apartment. Both of my parents were/are true bookworms and it was Mom who instilled in me the love of trashy grocery store mystery novels: think Sue Grafton, Jonathan Kellerman. She believed in reading balance. You’re allowed one shitty novel for every serious piece of literature. Every time I pass by this shelf I think of her. I think about new books she would have liked. Movie adaptations of books she had read (she had just finished Into the Wild when she died and I think the movie would have sorely disappointed her). How she would yell when I stuck a paperback of hers into my backpack before she was done reading it. The copy of I, Tina she gave me in the fifth grade. It was the thickest book I had ever laid my tiny 12 year old hands on and I treasured it until it got taken away during class with Sister Dorothy. This little teak bookend evokes all of those memories and many more for me. I may not have or know much, but this is mine.
And that, my friends, is the reason I want to preserve everything. The reason I can’t throw stuff away. I have to leave more behind than my mom did. I want my kids and grandkids and their grandkids to know and remember and hold onto exactly who I am.
Don’t forget: send me an email!