I have a confession to make: I am addicted to stuff.
It doesn’t have to be new. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It just has to be a thing. If it is photographed and posted on Instagram, so much the better; now I want it even more. “As seen on TV” was never a thing for me; “as seen on IG…” that’s a whole different story.
I am drawn to things of beauty everywhere: handmade kantha quilts, mudcloth, linen curtains; cast iron tea pots, tea infusers, glass water bottles; macrame wall hangings, key chains, lamp shades; embroidered pillows, paper weights, framed art; cement tile back splashes, planters, and trivets; plants, vines, and floral arrangements; mirrors, couches, tea cups, vases, copper cook wear, sun porches, paper art… I am addicted to the beauty and design I see around me. I want it everywhere. I want the beautiful, enviable life.
I emailed a friend a few weeks ago. The email was titled, “My current obsession.” That week, it was glass spray bottles. This week, it’s three-rod hairpin furniture legs.
My wants can masquerade as needs. Impulse is easy to give in to, and I usually do. I know that in the end, it won’t make me happy. I will think of another thing that I want/need: a scrubbing brush to make it easier to clean the bathroom, a bottle brush to clean out the vintage class Pepsi bottle I found floating in the Clinton River, more decorations for the kitchen, cushions for the balcony swing…
So today, before I give in to my impulse to spend $65.00 on those three-rod hairpin furniture legs, 3/8″ thickness, in copper or red (TBD), I am determined to make a clean slate of my covetousness. And, even more important, to take time to remind myself of the beautiful things I do have. In short, now that I have confessed, I want to take a moment to express contentment.
There are so many things already in my life–things that do spark genuine joy when I see them.
Gifts spark the most intense and the brightest joy. There’s a little tea cabinet in my living room that is an alter of gifts.
The tea cabinet itself was given to me by my mom. She used to use it as her bathroom vanity cabinet for several years before giving it to me.
Inside are more gifts–my grandmother’s silverware set. Whenever I think of her, I think of the huge gallon Ziplock bag of hard candies she always brought with her when she came north to visit us. She and I would sit together on the couch in the living room. She’d stroke my arm with her hand, and I can still feel the goosebumps I got when her dry fingernails scratched against my skin. But I never asked her to stop. It felt good, even while it did tickle.
Also inside the cabinet are mugs: “You’re paw-some” reads the inside lip of a white mug with dog legs and a tail for a handle. This, as well as a tall two-toned pink & taupe mug, are gifts from my aunt. Looking around my apartment, I see more gifts from her: little elephant Christmas tree ornaments (four in all), hung on door handles; two pairs of elephant earrings in my jewelry dish; elephant hand towels; a cozy gray elephant throw rug… she knows me well; anything with an elephant on it, and I love it.
Speaking of elephants, on top of the tea cabinet is an elephant tea set. I purchased the pot myself, and the cream pitcher, but one of my cousins bought the sugar bowl for me, which I always keep filled with Fair Trade organic cane sugar. Whenever I make tea, I think of her. Sometimes I pour the tea into my handmade Polish pottery, brought back by another cousin from Poland with a matching saucer. Poland: I need to go there some time.
You know how in their bathrooms, some people keep a little tray or jar of Q-tips? I have you all beat out for the cutest Q-tip container. Mine came from Egypt in the 1990s. My dad bought this little rabbit. He has ears pointing straight up to heaven, bright perky eyes, and buck teeth that stick out of it’s mouth, making his puffy cheeks look even bigger. On his arm, he’s carrying a basket of fresh vegetables. Inexplicably, someone decided to give this over-all wearing farmer bunny an open barrel instead of a proper back-side. For years, I puzzled over what to do with my little Egyptian bunny. He alternatively held spare change, pencils, and buttons in his barrel. Now, he holds Q-tips. And I swear, looking at that little bunny, I think that’s what he’s meant to hold. (I’d post a picture… but I wouldn’t want to give you Instagram envy.) Sure, he’s a little old now, and his paint is woefully faded from too-much sun exposure, but he’s in one piece, with an Arabic label still attached to the bottom. And I said it once, but I’ll say it again: he looks for all the world like he was mean to be a Q-tip holder.
You know, the more that I look around my apartment, the more gifts I see. The futon I’m sitting on was a gift from a university professor when I didn’t have any furniture in my first apartment. The books on my shelves have come through so many channels: gift cards, gifts from authors, gifts from friends, and hand-me-downs through generations. Besides the silverware, there are other family heirlooms: an opal ring from my grandmother, and a jewelry box from her mother.
Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue, I think as I sit quietly, taking an inventory of every thing I own.
And that’s when it hits me: the simple truth I have known all along, just needed to be reminded of: everything in life is a gift.
And suddenly, my emphasis isn’t on everything, it’s on everything: the millions of little kindnesses of arms-wide-open expressions of love that make life not about things, but above love, and friendship.
Best wishes to you all,