Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Things We Carry: Part One

Many, if not most, of you have heard of Tim O’Brien’s masterful work The Things They Carried. I’ve read most of it in excerpts thanks to multiple college English and literature courses. It’s a beautiful, haunting tale of the Vietnam War told through the eyes of a young soldier and the seemingly endless list of things he and his platoon carried with them into battle. Things both literal and figurative. Things both tangible and metaphysical. Ever since I read it I’ve wondered: what do I carry? If people could see the things I carry would I look like Marley’s ghost, dragging long chains wrapped ‘round my ankles and arms? Or would the things I carry gossamer behind me like moonlight on the sea?

The things we carry are important. They are the things that make us, mold us and shape us. Some things we have a choice in carrying; other things were forced on us, shoved upon us, never asked for. We can choose to cast those things aside but they will forever haunt our steps. In the physical sense, the things we carry root and ground us to where we are, where we’re from and where we are going. 
Never before have I thought so much about this. Never before have I had to.

Last week I blogged about trying to find order in the chaos of a big move. Since then I’ve come across the term “new normal”. I thank a dear friend for that. Establishing a new normal is an ordeal. For my friend it has been in the wake of her first child, for me, the surrealistic venture of uprooting and replanting.

New city, new vibe, new place.

Both frightening and enticing.

This past week I’ve contemplated the things we carried with us, the things we deemed necessary enough to travel 200 miles with us. What of the things we left behind? We kept them for a reason, didn’t sell them, but there wasn’t room enough for them in the moving van or in the house.

The things we carried:
One book shelf worth of books.
Old dishes, tea cups and saucers.
A messenger bag of writing ideas, article prompts and no less than three rough drafts.
50 record albums.
Every Tim Burton film we own and three copies of Star Wars, the original (**only**) trilogy on VHS.
A box of tea.
Three binders of torn out magazine pages of craft ideas, product designs and printmaking techniques.
The cat.

Of course there’s more. Like my husband’s favorite painting that looks more like Louis XVI dressed as a Christmas tree topper than the “Archangel Gabriel” as it is entitled. The print of one of Tolkien’s drawings for The Hobbit that has hung on a wall in every house or apartment I’ve lived in. A hand written note from Madeleine L’Engle.

My great aunt’s sewing machine.

We are the things we carry. They are outward manifestations of our inner lives. Why else do we buy particular brands? To look a part, true, but also because on the inside we carry aspirations and dreams. We, like the Tardis, are bigger on the inside.

Much, much bigger.

Thank you ALL for sharing with me the things you’ve carried with you from moves as well as from loved ones. It’s been a wonderful experience learning I’m not alone in this bizarre transition to the “new normal”. Have a wonderful week!


  1. I have certain things I picked up during travels as a child that I still carry with me. And a pet rock that's over forty years old. No idea why I still have it, as it's as big as a shoe...

  2. Hey now... That painting is amazing and you know it! I see that my matador pictures were conveniently left behind. ;p Our "stuff" is (or at least should be) an extension of who we are. I will forever be a sucker for random, odd, quirky, unique things. I love the form and function of good design, but I also love the stories (both real and imagined) behind seemingly meaningless objects and I'm thankful you don't mind when I bringing home a sculpted bust of an African elder, a branch dragged out of the ocean or the leg bone of a long-deceased bovine. I'm glad our house is more of an antique shop and nothing like an Ikea warehouse. :)

  3. 50 record albums? You're talking vinyl, aren't you? Ah, those were the days. Priceless.

    You always have such GREAT ideas for your posts, Jen!

    (I've tagged you in the Literary Seven Deadly Sins Hop over at my place...I think you'll enjoy it...)

  4. Definitely will read Tim's book. Sounds intriguing and I enjoy that time period/subject.

    I'm trying to lessen the things I carry, though it's hard to break ties with the past. Is it possible to be the result of our past (and the things from then) if we let them go?


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Cheers! ~J