Kerry Scott at Clue Wagon asked, “What is the one thing you would grab if your house was on fire?”
The question assumes that loved ones (I include pets here) are safe.
My guess is that I would approach this problem the way I approach my genealogy research. I have to save the photos, no wait there’s the computer, oh, the kids baby bracelets, Just a minute, I’m almost ready….until being dragged from the house by a worried and more focused spouse.
The real question here then is “What objects are most meaningful in your life?”
I have a vase that sits in my living room. My mother remembers her father bringing the vase home when she was a little girl. My mother was born in 1910. That puts the date when the vase enters our life at 1918 or 1920. For as long as I can remember it sat on a sideboard in my mother’s house. It came to live with me when my mother moved to assisted living here in Connecticut. A few years ago Antique Roadshow came to Hartford, Ct and I took my vase. The expert told me it was a post-war piece made in Japan for the export market. I assume he meant WWI. There were a lot of exports to this country around 1920, so maybe my vase was one of them. He valued it at $350. It is priceless to me.
It is a simple inanimate object. Many would not consider it beautiful. Certainly, most would consider it silent, but it speaks volumes to me.
My grandfather worked as a leather cutter in a factory that made ladies’ handbags. He was not a sentimental man and there was little money for useless extras. Yet he saw the vase in a pawnshop and he needed it. He needed it in the way we all sometimes need something beautiful that we cannot afford and have no earthly use for, but that continues to yell at us, “Buy me!” We are fools if we do not listen.
I have been in homes of people who live in soul crushing poverty, both in this country and others and I have never seen a home without at least one object that is there just because it is beautiful. It might just be a picture ripped from a magazine, but it is essential to that house. I am always amazed when we are involved in a local or national conversation about what is necessary for our children’s education. Art is always high on the hit list, yet it is art in all its forms that fully expresses our humanity.
I don’t know what that vase said to my grandfather. I know it meant the world to my mother. To me it says, “You are connected through time to people who understood beauty and knew its meaning even when times were difficult and a secure future was hard to envision.”