I have always been a collector of things. Porcelain dolls with bells in their skirts, when I was very small. Six vintage champagne coupes given to my parents as a wedding gift. An old tin strainer that belonged to my great-grandmother (I have her name, too). Things that connect me to people I love, places I miss, and stories I want to remember.
I once read a story about a man who could fit all of his possessions in a single backpack. He owned thirty-nine things. I think about that. What would I keep, if I only had room for thirty-nine things?
It would take some work. Right now, my garage is so full of stuff, there is no room for my car. A six-foot-long soaking tub sits in the corner, awaiting an ad I still need to write and post to Craigslist. Half a dozen end tables, plucked from thrift stores, await repair. I have pictures in need of frames, and frames in need of fixing. I have stuff piled around my ears, whispering its potential like a do-it-yourself siren song.
Isn’t this how stuff works? It has the power to console, to transport us to other places, to summon other people and past versions of ourselves. And yet, it can haunt us, too.
In this, our third issue of Proximity, we present nine very different stories of stuff—stories of origin, stories of connections and consequences, stories of hope amid destruction, and love amid loss:
In “Flea Market,” S.R. Aichinger finds solace after a break-up in objects like a simple ring and a set of old Nancy Drew novels, while Marcia Aldrich explores the darker side of garage sales in “Walk on By.”
In “Life Under Water,” Jim Carrier explores the emotional value of objects lost and found in his post-Katrina home; and for Penny Guisinger, a lost item becomes an unexpected life lesson in “Batboy is Disappointed.”
In “A Catalogue of My Dad,” Erika Janik sees her own reflection in what her father left behind. Meanwhile, Rachel Jenkins embarks on a haunting search for answers after a life-changing tragedy, in “The Stuff of Dying and Living.”
In Jane Katims’ “Croissants, Casseroles, a Fine Bordeaux,” personal artifacts take on beautiful importance in the waning years of a life.
And Scott Russell Morris celebrates the spark of human connection in the way stuff changes hands, in “Points of Tangency”; while Dana Norris captures teenage “Rebellion” inside the aisles of Walgreens.
These stories take us from rural Nebraska to the streets of New Orleans, from the mountains of Wyoming to the plains of Indiana, from Boston to Madison and other places in between.
Maggie Messitt and I, the editors of this issue, are honored to include these nine talented storytellers in Proximity #3: STUFF. We hope you’ll share these stories with others, comment on our Facebook page, and be inspired to consider your own stories about stuff.