I've never been a firm believer in the whole "You are what you own" ethos, that materialistic gains define who a person is. I've never believed that owning a Jag or Mercedes should define who you are. If your self esteem is so wrapped up in your possessions... Well I'm not saying seek therapy, but definately re-evaluate the state of your life.
But there are certain things in my possession that, well I wouldn't say they define me, but they explain who I am. They have a history that is intricately wrapped with my own, even if I can't always define what that history is. Let me explain. Fighting Nun and I are wine drinkers. With every bottle we drink, there is inevitably a cork. I have kept every cork to pretty much every bottle we've shared for the sole fact that the cork represents that time, that memory. It's a nice Italian dinner, or a relaxing evening at home. I believe I saved the cork from our first date. (Fighting Nun paired the wine with a nice cherry cheesecake, making known right from the start that he knew the most direct path to my heart...) There's also a cork in there from a bottle of Champagne that Fighting Nun uncorked the day he proposed. I don't remember which cork goes to which memory, but I do know that they are all moments I want to keep, I want to cherish.
Nothing explains who I am, maps my history, quite like my bead collection. Beading, making jewelry is a hobby that goes back to my second or third girl scout troop meeting. I couldn't have been any older than six, and I don't really remember much about girl scouts (except for one oddly memorable slumber party involving bingo, which yeah, I don't what that's about) other than the first time I made a bracelet with a bunch of hokey plastic beads, but I was hooked. It was something I made that I could wear, and that's all I needed. In third grade, I stumbled upon my mom's old macrame beads, and somehow decided to try the hobby again. From then on, bead collecting and jewelry making has been a part of who I am. It's one of the things I identify with, a title if you will. Every time I look in on my bead collection, I'm re-connecting with an old friend. Sometimes I leave the collection untouched for months (and at one point, even years) at a time. But when I re-connect, I pick up right where I left off, as if no time has passed and everything is new and fresh again.
Every bead in that collection, every bead I've ever had, defines me, describes my history both metaphorically and literally. There are still some beads in my collection that were a part of my mother's macrame collection, that's how far back they date me. I also have beads that were from some of my grandmother's old costume jewelry, beads from an aunt, a cousin, from their old jewelry or bead collections. They at one point captured another family member's history, which is a part of my history, my story as a person. My grandmother owned this incredible string of black multi-faceted costume beads that are dark and rich in color yet sparkle and radiate, especially in the light. They matched my grandmother's personality completely, rich and textured and utterly sparkling when she was in the limelight, that is until my grandmother's personality and memory were robbed from her by Alzheimer's and Dimentia. Those beads are the way I choose to remember her. Those beads have a history I'll never know because my grandmother is no longer around to tell it, and also because I took my grandmother for granted and never took the time to listen.
The beads from my mother are earthy, from wood and stone and bone. Hard and practical, but with a beauty all their own. They were also from a time before my mother had me, when she was earthly and hippy like, yet she embraced nature and loved life and beautiful things. They are very practical, and yet very beautiful, very unwavering, as if they will always be around. Just like I hope my mom will be.
Some beads I can recall exactly how they came to be in my possession, some I can't. Some beads bring back memories, certain people. Others, well I have no idea, but they still metaphorically define who I am, or who I was when I got them. I've got this clay fimo centerpeice bead that has a sun and a moon entertwined together and both the sun and the moon have faces and the sun has this huge cheesy smile with teeth (which, why give a sun teeth? Really?) and the bead is both ugly and scary at the same time, and I am never going to use it. But I was a teenager when I bought the bead and I had this obsession with sun and moon iconography and wanted to surround myself with sun and moon images. That's how it became part of my collection. I also have this white glass skull bead which kind of looks like the skull on the skull and cross bones which was on the title screen for The Goonies, except without the eye patch and not quite as cool, or not cool at all really. Along with that bead are these funky blue triangle beads which are just unwieldy and not easy to use at all. I received both of those at the same time from a boy I knew when I was in high school. I had met him at some weird leadership thing I participated inmy junior year and began a weird affair of letters that lasted until shortly before I began college. I had this weird little relationship/infatuation with him, and he gave me these weird little beads as a present that I don't know what to do with, but I probably will never get rid of them because they remind me of him, and that crazy little time in my life. I have these funky green beads which are square shaped that are just kind of odd. I don't know when or for what reason I got them, but I believe they were acquired during my junior year of high school, which was kind or my free-wheeling, funky, free-spirit phase.
The jewelry I make is a different story. When I wear one of my own necklaces, It's like I'm carrying several different memories along with me. A memory of each bead, or a certain feeling attached to each bead is encompassed in the necklace, and yet the necklace itself holds its own memories for me. Little peices of me and yet bigger peices of it tied around my neck, with me as a I make new memories. When I make something and give it to my mom, or send it to a friend, I'm giving them a peice of history, a little bit of something that makes me me. And hopefully, that peice will be a reminder, or hold special memories for that other person. Shared history through bits of glass and string.
When I was younger, I was convinced that my hobby was a talent and that talent could be parlayed into some sort of monetary gain. Basically, I was convinced I could sell the stuff, and I had sold some pieces, to an assortment of random people. Now, it's not about that at all. I don't care if I make a dime off the stuff. It's less about the jewelry than it is about reliving my past and creating a new future. It's not the destination, it's the journey. I like that I can assemble bits of glass and metal and make it into something beautiful and I get to share that beauty. But I like looking in on my beads, sifting through them and taking a trip down memory lane while I'm at it. I like looking in on my old friends. My beads tell my story, and I wouldn't have it any other way.