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October 9, 2008

A few of my favorite things
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:11 PM * 155 comments

We are physical beings, dear people, and we like having physical possessions. Children collect broken bits of plastic from the playground. (And leave them in their pockets, so that they fall out, covered in sand, in the dirty clothes basket. But I digress.) And we adults are forever tempted to define ourselves by what we own; thus marketing. It goes right back, I think, to the first tool user who decided that this stone was better than any other, and became attached to it, domesticated by it like a dog would become domesticated by one of his descendants.

This can be a bad thing, of course. Consumerism, and the consequent feelings of poverty, blunt the appetite to own a few precious things with a gluttony of clutter. We are seeing the costs of that now. And a persistent hoarder can fill a house with “indispensable possessions” (you could not walk through some of the rooms in my grandparents’ house for the things stored there). Likewise, deprivation grinds harder when everyone around you has more stuff than you do.

Wisely do those who abjure the world take vows of poverty.

But the fact that an aspect of our natures can twist like a knife in the hand and damage us does not make it go away. To turn this possessiveness into a helpful force, we should own a few dear things, care for them, and cherish them. (Note, however, that all things pass; we must drink from the cup as though it is already broken rather than hide it to keep it safe.)

What, of the things that you possess or are possessed by, are most precious to you? Why?

For my part, I would name three things.

  1. A jade-green ceramic mug that I bought at a craft fair at Stanford University, one Mother’s Day in the 1980’s. It was on the mark-down table, because it had been touching another item in the kiln and had four pale marks on it as a consequence. I could have afforded something full-price, but I didn’t want perfection. I wanted story, and that leaves marks.
  2. My maternal grandmother, whom I resemble but never met, had a chiming mantel clock. Its ticking was the heartbeat of the house when I was a child. My mother, who has few reminders of her mother, kindly gave me the clock when she found out how much I wanted it (I offered to trade my claim on a contested set of garnet jewelry for undisputed rights to it in her will). “It’s more fun to give things away when I can watch you enjoy them,” she commented. It just chimed at me, a rich and reassuring sound.
  3. I have the neatest laptop case/messenger bag. It wasn’t expensive, in the small local shop where I found it. From the front, it’s a relatively ordinary bag, beige and black, big enough for a laptop and a few books. But on the back is a little zippered flap; open it and you see a couple of clips (one repaired now, after a little…gravitational incident) and some Velcro strapping. The clips and the strapping mean that it hooks right onto the rack on the back of my bike. I love it because it is an expression of things that I enjoy so much about my life right now: working at a technical job with a small company, shopping locally, biking to work.

This is—clearly—a non-political thread.

Comments on A few of my favorite things:
#1 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 05:17 PM:

You know, that's a hard question for me. I'm *certainly* not short on possessions, many of which I value, but I'm not bringing to mind ones I value extremely outside of photos and personal paper (my own and from relatives), and tools. The tools are all subject to being replaced by better tools (just going through that with the most expensive ones in fact, sigh), so I think I can honestly claim it's not the *particular* camera or lens or knife I value, but rather what I can do with it.

I'm currently rather pleased to have what I think is the sliderule I used through highschool back, which is in the category. And there are some books, like first-edition Doc Smith, that I value even if/when I have that version of the text in electronic form.

#2 ::: jennie1ofmany ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 05:22 PM:

A silk scarf, given to me by someone very dear to my heart. He bought it for me to give to me as a surprise, then left it in a shop in the town we'd been visiting together, had another friend retrieve it thence, and several months later was able to present it to me.

It's the perfect colours.

I miss him, and cherish the reminder of less fraught times together.

The assemblage of small tools I carry in my handbag: My Swiss army knife, multi-head pen-sized screwdriver, mini-Leatherman, yardstick inna can. Many are gifts from another very dear friend. who gifts me with tools. I like having on hand the tools I need in order to do things, and hate leaving many of them behind when I fly anywhere.

My black velvet coat with hot pink skulls screenprinted on it, and the hot pink satin lining. I look great in it, no matter what else I'm wearing.

The white glass bedside lamp I've had since I was two, moving it carefully from dwelling to dwelling. It's always shone on the books I read in bed.

#3 ::: Annalee Flower Horne ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 05:26 PM:

1. A small music box my mother gave me as a graduation present. It plays "I Hope You Dance," and it makes me smile every time I open it.

2. A 1919 treadle-powered sewing machine I just got up and running again. I learned to sew from my mother, who learned from her mother, who learned from her big sister. Sewing has become our heirloom. We have no others.

3. My motorcycle. Because I bought it my very own self, and it's totally awesome.

#4 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 05:27 PM:

I have a small framed watercolor print of Mont St. Michel, which I visited half a lifetime ago and was so impressed by I didn't even know what to do with it. I don't think my mouth closed completely the entire time I was there.

I bought the print at one of the half-bazillion gift shops that lined the town's twisty streets. It was nothing special, not even a real watercolor - only a print of one - but the colors were soft and warm and vaguely Impressionistic and the artist had added a boat in the foreground, lying on its side on the empty floodplain that surrounds the city, and something about it struck me more than the seventy gazillion ultra-realistic photos of the place also being sold there.

Since then it's hung in every single one of the (many) homes I've had.

It value is practically nothing, money-wise, but if I woke up and my house was on fire, this picture is one of the things I would grab before running for the door. To me, it's not so much a picture of a place I've been, as it is a reminder that there is magic and adventure in the world, and I got to have some.

#5 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 05:38 PM:

After lamenting the demise of Mother's Cookies I have realized that I am a very fortunate monkey indeed. I have friends, family, a dog, my health (mostly) and enough stuff. But what I would mourn terribly if I lost it are:

1.) My terrible, half-plywood cello. It has been upgraded as much as is reasonable and played with love for over two decades. Despite its obvious flaws, it has a sweet voice. I fantasize about landing a few thousand unexpected dollars and upgrading, but then I don't know where I will fit two cellos in my apartment.

2.) The amazing bow for my cello, which lost its original screw and therefore its provenance and was subsequently affordable to me.

3.) My Nauga, bought by my parents a decade ago to atone for selling my childhood security-Nauga at a yard sale for a dime.

4.) My bright red raincoat, which cheers me on the few days a year we get drizzle in L.A.

#6 ::: Arachne ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 05:40 PM:

I learned the hard way about possessions and cherishing. I used to have a nice book collection... that of course went bye-bye, as hefty things you cannot take along do when you have to flee.

My precious things:

- My Kindle and its little power thingy. I read books on it. And actually a lot of websites, too. And Twitter. I also use it for my audio books.

- My Mighty Brite booklight, which doubles as a task lamp or a really bright and angling flashlight, because there's nothing like a familiar light in a horrible hotel.

- My MacBook Pro, to access email, the blog, the file server, banking information, and the Amazon S3 stash. And also write.

Very little else really matters.

#7 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 05:46 PM:

Thanks for posting this, Abi...

I've got a couple of indian-ink sketches by my great-grandfather which have travelled around with me for some time; a few books I wouldn't want to lose; a prismatic compass that belonged to another great-grandfather in Flanders; a couple of maps... most of the other things I value are liable to get replaced or upgraded (boots, camera etc) as David remarked above.

#8 ::: Adam Rice ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 05:47 PM:

1. My road bike. It's a Bob Jackson. My first really nice road bike was a Bob Jackson, and when I visited England in '97, I stopped by the factory in Leeds for a visit. I had them measure me for a custom frame at that time, and two years later, ordered one. It's not quite as high-tech or light as some of the bikes out there these days, but it's a honey.

2. My copy of Generation X. There are many like it, but this book is mine. I read that book in one sitting and it hit me at just the right moment in my life. There are very few books that I appreciate as artefacts, but this is one.

3. My 3-door Stickley bookcase, which once belonged to Ann Richard's mother. When my wife and I remodeled our house, we designed the floor plan around it.

All of this will be lost in the fire, if it ever comes.

#9 ::: Yatima ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 05:58 PM:

I try not to bond too much with atoms, but there are two things I would ache to lose: my wedding ring. And some pictures of my Arabian horse Kehilan Alfarn, of blessed memory.

#10 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 06:08 PM:

The twelve-volume set of "My Book House," and its three companion volumes (Nursery Friends from France, Tales Told in Holland, and Little Pictures from Japan) that my grandparents originally bought for their three sons. There were seven grandchildren, but they gave the set to me. Not all at once -- they inscribed Little Pictures from Japan to me when I was four, and I got to take it home, but the other volumes stayed there, treasures to be curled up with at Rosh Hashanah and Passover and Hannukah, and I don't remember what the system was for when I got to take another one home. They're full of fairy tales and mythology and poetry, and I love them.

My grandmother said that those books were the only thing they ever bought on time payments (during the Depression, at that) and that they'd been well worth it.

#11 ::: Julia Rios ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 06:18 PM:

1. A green velvet pillow with a lion cub cross-stitched onto it, made by my mother's mother.

2. When my mother's father left his home of 60 years for an assisted living community, the family went through and tried to divide up all the things he couldn't take with him. Among them were a number of teacups and saucers, which weren't part of a matched set. When no one else wanted them, I was thrilled. I love them, and use them all, but my favorite is a green and yellow one from 1923. I'd be sad if it broke, because I have yet to find any remaining ones like it.

3. My favorite t-shirt is red, and has a picture of a woman wearing a dress, and holding a slingshot. It puts me in the mood to get things done whenever I wear it.

#12 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 06:19 PM:

This is hard. I've spent a lot of my life with a sense of transience, and things get lost (three moves = a fire).

I have a goblet which I value. The maker no longer makes. But it's not precious in that way. The nipperkin, made by the same hand... that is because it was gifted me, by the maker, for a small spot of help one weekend.

As a matter of habit, I wear a knife (a better all-around tool than a good knife of 3"-5" is hard to think of). My Buck is so familiar that like a samurai with years of practice I can have it in hand and working before the intention is truly realised, and it goes back to sheath without the use of my eyes. When I am not wearing it (or one of it's few fellows, of similar nature) it is if I am undressed. Should I reach for it and find it missing the world lurches and I am out of balance.

Any of a number of dishes. They are an odd lot... A covered rice bowl, a roughly made coffee cup, bare of glaze at the bottom and the glaze with spills over the inside is thick, and colored as if it were cream, slightly colored with coffee; spilling over the edge. They are comforts, given me as tokens of affection, and as such carry with them the echoes of the givers, even when they are far from me. Solace for the heart as they carry comfort for the flesh.

#13 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 06:24 PM:

I could never take it with me in a hurry, it is not on the One-Bag List that every Jew who knows history has lurking in the back of h* mind, but it is not a Place Where I Live without my big, solid banker's desk that used to be my mother's office desk when she ran her own business. It is huge and dignified and a bit dinged up and the previous century hangs about it like a favorite old coat on a bentwood rack.

As natural as my new bodhran feels in my hands, I could replace or upgrade it and the music would still be mine. So count me as the odd musician who wouldn't name his instrument on this list...though it, in its padded gig bag, would probably be the One Bag mentioned above.

I have a few things from my grandfather that all fit in one pocket. Some foreign currency, a round aluminum tag with his name and date of induction to the USMC. My mother is keeper of all the family heritage pictures, I'll have to trust her there.

There are a few books I couldn't replace easily, but if I had to jam I could leave them with few regrets. The rarest of my music is stored in my USB key frob or my phone.

I would miss my Renteria Don Quixote but he is far too fragile to travel with easily. It's remarkable that Mom got him home from Mexico safely at all.

#14 ::: Sylvia Sotomayor ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 06:36 PM:

I have four things I would be very sad to lose:

1) My first edition of von Humboldt's Personal Narrative

2) The cat (OK, she may actually be number 1)

3) The server's backup external drive

4) The laptop

My Mom was born in Berlin in 1943. She was brought up on stories of grandma's beautiful china that was never used and is now gone. My Mom uses all her good dishes from time to time. That's what they are for. I learned that from her.

Adam Rice @8: I, too, have a three door Stickley bookcase. I bought it to house the von Humboldt. It contains all the books I would pack into the car if I had enough time to do so before evacuating. The rest of my library is replaceable.

#15 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 06:36 PM:

I own a brass edition of Berrocal's "Richelieu" -- one of, I think, 1000 that he cast.

It's precious in dollars, because only so many exist. It's precious because it's a perfect 3D jigsaw puzzle, and also lovely.

It's precious to *me* because when I was very young -- eight maybe? ten? -- my parents took me to an exhibition of Berrocal's work. I walked around with my eyes big as saucers, looking at the perfect 3D jigsaw puzzles.

Then I asked "How much do these cost?" And my parents said, more or less, "A lot." I decided I would eventually own one. When I was 30, I looked around, looked at my finances, looked at some prices, and realized I could afford it. So I did. My eight-year-old self and my 30-year-old self *both* deserved it.

#16 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 06:43 PM:

I'm one of those who accumulates Stuff, and I'm much more attached to the experiences than the Stuff these days. Still and all, I'd risk running back for:

the original Albrecht Durer woodcut I found going through my grandmother's print collection, as a symbol of that collection and a grandmother I may have only one very dim memory of;

the original typed ms of Cordwainer Smith's "Scanners Live in Vain" and the small archive that includes his carbon of the submission letter and his own copy of his first collection of stories;

an odd silver bullion coin that I use for flipping occasionally, with a beehive on the front and a north-polar view of the earth showing South American and Australia on the back;

small presents from several people, and no I won't go into details.

#17 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 06:52 PM:

* A large framed collection photo of 1917's duly elected state senators of K--, notable because it's the only picture of my grandfather that I can recall seeing

* My wedding ring, the only surviving possession of my other grandmother

* A golden pottery bowl, over a foot across, that I picked out last year at the Texas Clay Festival

* Two antique draw-leaf tables, one with great barley-twist legs in some burled wood, the other of no particular beauty except that I've used it as a desk for just over twenty years. The top needs serious mending, but it's seen me through novels, a dissertation, a master's thesis, a lot of code, and a whole bunch of rasfc and ML

* Signed copies of several novels by Dorothy Dunnett

* My paring knife with the wooden handle and the two-inch blade. Unfortunately I seem to have lost it totally last week.

* My laptop, which has much of my intellectual life tucked away on it

My husband and my cat go without saying.

#18 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 06:53 PM:

I'm one of those people who has tons of things but cherishes memories more. I'm also most pleased with tools— cameras, Photoshop, craft stuff.

But for outright irreplaceable I could go with the paper doll my Nana drew for me. I'm scanning it but boy, that takes forever on my (good lord, ten years old) scanner.

#19 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 06:57 PM:

I have a lot of Stuff, some of which I am very fond of, but very little of it is irreplaceable. If there was a fire and I lost everything, I think I would most mourn the quilts and stuffed animals I made. I can make more--and do, and will--but not *those*. Or perhaps my fabric stash, which is constantly turning over but has fabrics I will never find again. There are books that would be a pain to replace, but I'm attached to the words, not the particular package.

#20 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 07:00 PM:

I rarely need to wear immensely warm jumpers these days, but the one my mother made me is probably the one article of clothing I'd really miss - undyed wool from a black sheep I fed myself. I still have my childhood teddy bear, too, that my grandmother made me.

The third thing would be my godfather's treasured 3rd generation Fourth Folio - it's inscribed with a note at the front, saying that it's an exact replica of a replica owned by Edmund Kean.

I'd miss my favourite kitchen knife, too - an ugly, crude-looking piece of Vietnamese carbon steel from a car suspension strap, with an epoxy handle I moulded myself - and all the other tools I use. But those are mementoes of my own choice, my own taste, and being able to acquire them for myself is more a part of my own personal myth than the objects themselves.

#21 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 07:00 PM:

I've got way too much stuff, but there are only a few things I'd really miss.

1 - My grandfather's ring. It's a grey sapphire ring, with two very small (small enough to call chips# diamonds in a white gold setting. He found the stone during WW2 when he was in the Seabees, and brought it home. He exchanged part of the stone for the ring setting, and earrings for my grandmother.

2 - My grandmother's china cabinet. It's a small cabinet, probably from the 1920s. She painted it #she painted anything that didn't move, and some things that did), and friends of mine stripped and refinished it while it was on long-term loan. It has some nice inlay on the solid lower doors.

3 - My mother's ceramic nativity set. She hand-painted all of the pieces, and it's been around just about as long as I have. It's the only holiday decoration I put out.

#22 ::: Remus Shepherd ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 07:01 PM:

1. One of the last things my mother gave me before the divorce was a ceramic frog she glazed herself. She was horrified when I scratched my name into its back. I was five. This is the oldest thing I own.

2. Similarly, one of the few things I have from my maternal grandmother is a hand-made ragdoll. I have not seen anyone from that side of my family in over 30 years.

3. My dog Squire, who is the smartest animal I have ever met. He is the light of my life.

I'm hard pressed to find anything that approaches the value of those three. The rest is just stuff. (Even the other dog, though I love her. ;) )

#23 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 07:04 PM:

I don't really commit to objects; I have a short period where I really love them, after that it's mostly fond memories. For now:

A brimmed hat my parents got me in South Africa. It keeps the sun off me and hides that my hair is thinning.

A green bouncy rubber ball which was in a cracker and has passed from hand to hand since Christmas until it reached me. I just like the way it feels (it's in my hand as I type this).

My cake tin. It has a clear top so you can see the cake. And I'm back baking cakes at the moment.

#24 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 07:08 PM:

The sudden move across country we made when I was 10 means I don't have a whole lot of belongings that I've carried all the way through life. A couple, though:

The diamond-chip earrings my father sent for my 10th birthday after we left him behind.

The larger diamond engagement ring and wedding band my husband gave me.

My cell phone, which doubles as an mp3 player. It's adorable and very useful.

Fortunately, all three of these things are always on my person, so I won't lose them in case of any major moving emergency.

#25 ::: Mara ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 07:13 PM:

My postcards of the Winchester Bible, because it was once of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.

A very small (hand-sized) and not particularly stuffed lamb from my childhood, tied to memories of my paternal grandmother.

A stuffed tiger (Shere Kahn Jr.) my dad bought me when I was in my tweens.

A silver unicorn pendant from my mom, to remind me not to forget--oh, so many things.

A photograph of autumn leaves by a dear friend--especially precious because I live in California now and I'm aching for proper seasons.

My Complete Works of Shakespeare (which is languishing in a box, back in Delaware, but I will soon have sent to me), because it was, once upon a time, everything I wanted in the world.

#26 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 07:21 PM:

I forgot one... My cloak. An inverness, of the same vintage as the goblet; given to me for my birthday. It's worn, but not yet shabby. Where it once was pea-wool now the weave is starting to show. The plastic buttons it had I replaced with pewter roses up the front, and the cape is attached with stag.

It's kept me warm on many a cold night, and dry on many a dank; and elstwise dreary, day. When soaked it has the smell of the sheep it came from. On one, memorable, occasion it was carrying eight pounds of water. I, inside it, was dry everywhere it covered me.

It was lost, and came back to me after years (having hidden itself, somehow, in a friend's parents' closet). When it finally dies I shall have the pattern copied (though perhaps with the buttons reversed to be male-sided, and a lining added; with flaps to cover the riding vents.

So, cups, knives, cloak, my precious things are those, it seems, I would be able to walk the length and breadth of the world with, and not so well without.

I have been blessed in the gifts of my friends.

#27 ::: Nick Kiddle ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 07:26 PM:

A mug with a picture of a ladybird and the name I used to answer to, which I used to think was magic because I dropped it on the path and it didn't break.

My Swiss army knife, bought in Geneva in 2000. I misplaced it the other day, and the intensity of my panic took me by surprise.

My programmes and tickets, which help jog my memory of all the matches I've been to. When we had the fire, I was a season ticket holder at Scunthorpe United, and the season ticket was the first thing I took out of the smoke-damaged house after the fire.

The Hoarder's Patchwork: sentimental fabric scraps plus six years and counting of hard work.

#28 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 07:30 PM:

It's not exactly on topic for this -- but I found several bags of what must have been some other sewing person's stash of buttons at the thrift store last night, and between that, and some other things I'll avoid going into, found myself musing on the impermanence of succession in this day and age.

I'd estimate that the collection[0] ranges from the early 1920s up to the 1980s-or-early-1990s ... and suspect an old lady, well past the years of sewing for her family, perhaps dead -- perhaps moved by circumstances out of the home she'd lived in for years, and forced to part with her accumulated objects -- but in either case, I wonder what the person(s) eventually discovering my stash of buttons will think of the collection passed to them.

[0] Collection in the sense of an assemblage, rather than any formal thing.

#29 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 07:47 PM:

I'm one of the ones with way too much stuff, but I'm less attached than I used to be. Here are a few that matter.

A "dancing fish" glass plate that I bought in Mexico a few years ago. I don't often treat myself, and I bought this just for me because it made me smile. and it still does. It sits on top of the bookshelf in my office.

There's the collection of tourist shot glasses we've been accumulating for probably 25 years now. It started out as a kind of joke, but has become an enjoyable reminder of places we've been. Even my teenager finds them enjoyable instead of lame. They're overflowing the shelves for them in the dining room, and need a new one.

I'm fond of some kitchenware (skillet, large spoon) that was my mom's. They have value both practical and sentimental.

There's a photograph of my several-times-great grandfather, referred to in the family as "the marmoset grandpa" because of his big muttonchop whiskers.

#30 ::: Cynthia ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 07:47 PM:

This might be foolish -- I often am -- but I am fiercely, insanely, to the point it makes me ill at times -- in love with my house. And it's not a great house: parts of it are a hundred years old, and parts of it are fifty years old, and there are parts of it that would make anyone who knows anything about proper building just weep.

But it is mine, paid for solely out of money I made writing. And it wasn't until it was actually paid for that my husband, who had a childhood that could be best described at tumultous -- he moved seven times, one year -- broke down and cried, for now he never has to move again.

I know, it could go away, in a blizzard or a fire, or a flood. But I prefer to think it has stood this long, and it will last long enough that he never has to go without 'home' again.

#31 ::: Branduno ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 07:47 PM:

Rikibeth: My mother has a very similar connection to her set of the "My Book House" series. She inherited it from her father, whose mother, like your grandmother, bought it in time payments during the Depression. Their family valued the books so highly that my grandfather, as a child, was not allowed to touch them without first washing his hands. My mother always loved the way the stories in that series were told, and the look of the finely printed illustrations.

I myself am very attached to a bust of Beethoven--the color of bronze but apparently some sort of plastic--that I also inherited from my mother's father. As a child, it stood on a record player in a dark back room of my grandfather's house, and used to terrify me. He just looks very grim, Beethoven does.

#32 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 07:54 PM:

I have too many "things" in my life, especially books. Many of my favorites are autographed, and I can't decide which is most important. But one that isn't autographed probably tops the list of what goes with me: my 1972 edition of "Principia Discordia".

My athame, which I assembled from a kit. I didn't have the facilities (or abilities) to forge a knife, but I thought I should do more than just buy one.

My moonstone and silver handfasting ring*, and my blue dendritic agate and silver ring that was a gift from my father. I wear them most of the time, so they go where I go.

*My partner, Martin, has an identical ring which he wears most of the time as well.

#33 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 07:55 PM:

Sometimes I ponder what I'd take if I had to reduce everything to one car load.

The dog would take up half of the rear seat.

I probably boil it down to mostly practical stuff. "Practical" these days necessarily including a backup drive and maybe a laptop.

Other than that, a file box of photos, I suppose.

I might indulge myself with file box of gaming things, including the stuff I had published.

* * *

I'd MISS many things, but I'd be satisfied with donating them. I hate those "moving sales" where people leaving an apartment heap up stuff by a dumpster.

#34 ::: Cassandra ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 08:03 PM:

Is this stuff I own, currently? There are a few nice things in my parents' house that will be mine, though I don't know how I could take a piano in a fire...

1.) My cat.
2.) An antique silver hand mirror.
3.) My set of "My Bookhouse" books, six of them, from when my grandfather was small.

I would also take my writing and drawing archive, if I could.

#35 ::: Jamie Hall ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 08:07 PM:

It's quite a useful exercise to decide on a small number of easily-carried items that are the most important, and have a good idea of where they are, so they can be snatched up in less than a minute.

I grabbed my pre-selected items and took shelter this summer when a tornado was coming. It passed about 300 yards to the east. If it had been a direct hit, those things I carried may have been the only things I'd have left.

#36 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 08:11 PM:

Three things here, all inherited, two old.

My desk, a giant wooden monster rescued from a tip by my father, that has been with me for 23 years now and has barely fitted through the door of each house I've moved to. Battered and scored, they don't make desks like this anymore: you could jump on it and it wouldn't wobble.

My grandfather clock. Who knows when it was made, if it was even one clock originally: my great-grandfather rescued it in pieces from a second-hand shop, and it must have been old even then. Almost every part of it has been replaced at some point but it's still the same axe, er, clock. It smells *wonderful*, old wood and iron. I learnt to tell the time by staring obsessively at it and learning its every vibration and pre-chime shiver, for perhaps an hour every day for a year.

The family sofas, now sitting behind me because, well, they're nasty cheap brown-covered 1970s things that everyone other than me really doesn't like and that are losing their foam interior at a considerable rate. But I grew up with them and they've got scratches on which are the last remaining memento of the family cat.

So, three cheap and nasty old things that gained meaning by dint of long coexistence with people (and cats).

#37 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 08:15 PM:

Jamie Hall @ 35 ... I once had the experience of running full tilt out of a data center (thanks to a fire suppressant dump), and discovering that the things of greatest import to me appeared to be the pager, the other pager, and the cell phone[0].

I'm not sure that would be the case today -- but I can vouch that my choices turned out to be the most useful ones out of the several dozer folk there -- I could actually get the call center rerouted, and appropriate staff en route to deal with the issue.

#38 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 08:32 PM:


The cats go without saying. I'm not sure they're possessions; they're more sort of companions.

My iPhone. It's still a device from the future. I can communicate with anyone using darn near any method with the thing -- can comment here, send an email, a phone call, a text message, make a blog post or a Facebook update. I can look up darn near any piece of information anywhere -- catnip to someone with a trivia-loving brain. (I haven't played Trivial Pursuit since it was invented; I imagine it has to be outlawed.) It still feels like magic.

What's more, it was a completely unexpected gift from my boyfriend. We don't usually exchange gifts at all, much less something with that price tag (I know you're not supposed to know how much gifts cost -- but it was possibly the biggest tech launch ever, and I can read). It was given because he wanted to give it, because he knew it would make me happy, because he knew I really wanted one but would never buy one for myself, and I didn't expect it at all. That makes it more special to me.

Creature comforts: my washer and dryer (bought cheap, used) that mean I can do laundry at any time of the day and night, in my own home. My stove. My home itself; I saved like crazy to make the down payment and I do feel pride and independence in owning it, even though I worry myself sick about it these days.

My laptop, for the same reasons as the phone except that it was not a gift. (It's really the data on the laptop; I back it up in two places, in two separate locations, so if anything happens it's retrievable.)

(Are these threads the Making Light equivalent of unicorn chasers?)

#39 ::: Lola Raincoat ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 08:44 PM:

Item one: My grandmother's parents' and uncle's immigration documents, simply framed, presented to me by my gran on my 40th birthday. They include photos, and my great-grandparents' solemn oath that they were not anarchists nor polygamists.

Item two: The beautiful Japanese knives that my partner gave me for Christmas, a few years ago.

Item three: The sampler stitched by a friend for me, with the phrase "the patriarchy drives me nuts!" on it.

#40 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 08:45 PM:

I try to make sure I have my pocket-sized Leatherman micro with me at all times. Sure the Sebertech M4 is also nice, but it's bulkier.

My PDA is also in my pocket, at all times. It has my memory banks in it, for it contains not just appointments and contacts, but also fragments of writing that caught my attention, small formularies, important business items, occasional drafts, downloaded books and photos. I haven't added music, but I could.

There's always a flashlight near me, too. I learned in my years of travel and deprivation that a source of light comes in handy.

Tea. If I don't have some form of hot tea once daily, I'm not fit for human interaction. OK, in the really hot days of summer, I'll substitute warm tea or even cold tea, but it's always real tea.

In case of emergency, my partner and son would rescue the dogs, and I would get the cats. The rest of the stuff we own can be replaced, but lives are irreplaceable.

#41 ::: deathbird ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 08:46 PM:

The are a heap of favourite books and DVDs that are like old friends, but other than signed copies, most could easily be replaced if destroyed.

The few things that are irreplacable to me are:

1) My 1906 edition of The Complete Works of Shakespeare, that belonged to my late parents.

2) A kids book called 'The Dragon and the Jadestone', that my father bought for my birthday the year he died. He'd written an inscription in it, wrapped it, and hidden it away, but died three months before my 8th birthday. It was so wonderful to get a gift 'from beyond the grave'.

3) Rinny - a preposterous toy dachshund that my mother made from an old coat when I was 6 months old. I don't know what I called him when I was very small, but he eventually got named after Rin Tin Tin. Rinny was my security blanket, my best friend and confidante, and an ever present help in times of trouble all though my childhood. I took him everywhere and cried all over him more times than I can count. These days, he is very bald in places from years of cuddling, and smells a bit manky (he'd fall apart if washed), but if the place ever catches fire, he's the first thing I'd grab.

#42 ::: meredith ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 08:47 PM:

Aside from the gadgets I simply cannot live without (my laptop, Treo, and iPod) the most important objects in my life are:

* the framed photograph of my dad and I (aged 10) in our sailboat on Casco Bay. My brother not only took the photo, but developed, color-processed, and enlarged it himself.

* the signed CD booklet of Kate Bush's The Dreaming (currently framed on the wall)

* the signed copy of A Wrinkle in Time

(I don't count the cats as "objects", they're family. :)

#43 ::: meredith ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 08:53 PM:

Oh, and I can't believe I forgot this one:

The plastic crocodile beach toy I've had since my first week in college. My 17th birthday was only a couple days after the start of freshman orientation, and by the time my RA noticed it was almost midnight. She organized an expedition wherein a bunch of my hallmates crashed the WestCo Beach Party across campus and stole it, then brought it back and wrapped it in a poster similarly stolen from the wall of one of the Administration buildings. They all knocked on my door and sang me "happy birthday" and presented it to me with great pomp and circumstance. For a homesick kid who'd resigned herself to a lost and lonely birthday, that meant the world. I vowed right then that I'd be buried with The Croc :), and it's followed me everywhere I've lived ever since.

#44 ::: Handdrummer ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 08:56 PM:

I own thousands of books and cds. Not much else. But they all could be replaced. These things could not.

1. A small worn picture of my paternal grandfather. It shows a tall dark PA mtn Scot, grim and foreboding, standing in front of the farmhouse in which I grew up. He was a Wobblie and a union organizer who marched with Mother Jones. It is the only artifact I have of him. He died a month after I was born, but stories from his life shaped my worldview to a large degree. In the early Teens, he famously told the local KKK organizer "Sir, all of us are black down in the mine."

2. A larger framed photo of my maternal grandfather. He is gray haired and in a suit sitting in his factory office. It reminds me of how wonderful his office was for a small child, smelling of pipe tobacco, oiled leather and its hot coal stove.

3. My lp of Babatunde Olatunji's Drums of Passion. Signed "To My Friend and Colleague" by Baba at the end of the two week long drumming workshop I was blessed to take from him. Taking this workshop broke my years long deep clinical depression and showed me the path home through music. I am not being dramatic in the slightest here.

4. A small worn brown fuzzy puppet named Beowulf that Jim Henson once borrowed from me to use to demonstrate something at a convention back in the late 70's. I was properly awestruck.

#45 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 09:00 PM:

My few items of Le Creuset + the couple of stainless steel pots, which are a lot lighter.

Love, C.

#46 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 09:01 PM:

My few items of Le Creuset + the couple of stainless steel pots, which are a lot lighter.

But most of all my very heavy, alas, beautifully seasoned cast iron pots and skillets.

Love, C.

#47 ::: Lin D ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 09:15 PM:

In the things loved but not portable category: The large oak dining table my mother bought second hand a few months after I was born. My mother thinks it's at least 25 years older than I am. Family gatherings, with all the leaves in, and I having to crawl under the table to sit in the back corner. Covering it in blankets to make a fort. Standing on it to have hems pinned in all the dresses and pants my mother made for me. Now, the earthquake bugout bags sit under it, and the cats find it suitable for sitting at the front windows.

A coffee mug with a cartoonish guy walking a tightrope above dots-for-audience. As I turn the cup, the balance rod turns into a pencil, which in turn is drawing the tightrope. Turn further to find the far pole for the tightrope, and the saying by Albert Einstein, Imagination is more important than knowledge. It's the cup I use for tea when I'm not feeling creative and I need to be.

Hermes the Golden. One orange tabby siamese, my second generation be careful what you ask for cat. I rescue cats, and for a while they were mostly black, gray, or gray tabby. I asked for an orange cat. I made the mistake of asking for an orange cat who needed me, and got Morris. Morris was severely diabetic, had a broken back that meant he couldn't groom himself completely, and was generally a love. I kept him fed and housed for 2 1/2 years, until his diabetes proved too much. When asking for a replacement, I waved a finger sky-ward and said "and you know damned well what I mean!" I got Herm, orange for me, siamese for Jim, fat tail as requested by my mother, cheese-aholic instead of the requested chicken-aholic, opinionated, loud, grubby little boy (he never comes back in the house remotely clean) and my lap lion. I am his and he is mine and the world is good.

Three first editions from the 1950s, given to me by my father (divorced from my mother when I was four or five) who discovered that I had inherited his love for science fiction. A Doc Smith, a George O. Smith, and a Jack Williamson which I had autographed.

#48 ::: affreca ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 09:49 PM:

I try to deny my materialistic urges, but in the end, I get sentimental easily. And I gather stuff. I feel guilty wanting a bigger house, especially when I remember the tiny cottage I shared with my family as a kid (I drive past it about once a week for some reason or another). But little of it is irreplacable. I would get over it, I suspect.

But then there's Chubby. He's my childhood stuffed animal, the one I've loved since I was a baby. He might have to get stuffed back in the jump bag.

#49 ::: Ingrid ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 09:50 PM:

I am completely owned by my unread books. They rule my life. On the flip side, there are a few pieces of jewelry and clothing, a few precious ancient books that I would mourn deeply if lost, but the only thing of mine that gives me a deep freezing feeling at the thought of never seeing again is my piano music, and my piano. Which is weird, because I hardly ever play anymore. This thread really makes me wish I had a dog. So many wonderful touchstones of life.

#12 Terry Karney re: buck knife

I too, have a buck knife. My father gave it to me and I have a special custom-made sheath for it. It is a fabulously useful thing and I should miss it terribly.

#50 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 09:55 PM:

The cats, and their other dad, go without saying.

  • A wooden cutting board that my sister gave me over 30 years ago and which I use nearly every day. It's plain but serviceable. Looking at how it is hollowed out, it appears that I must have eaten a lot of sawdust over the years.

  • The mixing bowls that my grandmother used when I was a child.
  • A coffee mug with happy cats, a gift from my first boyfriend. (Don't tell my current partner.)

Hmm, these are all from the kitchen. People will get the wrong idea of the importance of cooking in my daily life.

Okay, now for some for fannish keepsakes.

  • A paperback copy of The Hobbit from 1965. I think it's the book I've owned the longest.

  • A complete run of Apa-50. Among the many, many contributors over the years, there was a youngster named Patrick Hayden.

#51 ::: JennR ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 09:57 PM:

Things I am possessed by:

Esme, my bari sax. She's far more sax than I deserve, and they don't build them like her anymore. There is a reason for this (mostly the less than optimal key configuration), but she's got such a sweet voice.

An otherwise unremarkable cylindrical ceramic vase, in early 1960s harvest gold speckle glaze. It was always on the kitchen table or counter in the summer, full of flowers from the garden.

The tooled leather dresser case that my father bought for his mother when he was in basic training in Arizona -- inside it are two items (a horsehair brush and a lacquer bowl) that she brought with her from her childhood home in the Ukraine (through forced resettlement in Siberia, emigration to the US through China, and a 7 year stay in Windsor).

The oversized oak desk my mother's father bought from a public school in 1930. He used it for 45 years, my mom used it for another 30, and now it's mine.

A corduroy giraffe wearing a messenger bag. His name is Gaston. When my mother's sister moved to Florida, she didn't want to take him, but wouldn't give him away. Every time I talk to her, she wants to know how he's doing. I have no idea why he's so important to her, and she wouldn't ever say, but....

#52 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 10:23 PM:

Family and Absolutely Not Replaceable:

- a blanket chest, made by my great-grandfather for the youngest of his three daughters (not very portable, but it does have handles, and casters that need to be replaced)
- a watercolor, done by my grandmother (his daughter-in-law), in 1908, while she was in college
- a crocheted Diplocaulus, made by my sister. She took it into the local tackle shop, put it on the counter, and said 'It lives in the bottom of a river. What kind of bait would you use?'

#53 ::: hamletta ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 10:25 PM:

rikibeth@10: Ack! You have "My Book House"? I'm so jealous! My grandparents had those, and I always spent hours with them when we went to New Jersey to visit them. When they died, I asked, but they went to another wing of the family, which was fine, because I didn't see childbearing in my future. But I sure loved those books.

And Dear Lord, the illustrations! The printing! I'm a printing geek, and I still remember the beauty.

My three things:

The howdah: My dad bought it at Woodie's Parkington Garage Sale in the '70s, and I always slept in it when I went to visit him and my stepmom.

My dad built race cars then, and his driver's father-in-law was—get this—a foam engineer. So this man (God rest his soul) designed the perfect foam matress for this elephant saddle.

It's a striking and beautiful piece of furniture, all hand-carved teak. There's nothing like it.

My Amamah's library table: Amamah was my maternal grandmother, but my dad wound up with possession of this desk, and it wouldn't give it back to my mom, but gave it to me. (Between that and the signed copy of Mrs. Tawes's Maryland cookbook...let's just say it got ugly.) It's beautiful and simple and sturdy, just like my Amamah.

Grandmom's yellow chairs: When my Grandmom died, my dad drove a truck from California to DC to retrieve the family heirlooms. Before he got to Nashville, he asked, "What do you want?"

I wanted the things that I remembered from their house in New Jersey.

I said, "The print of the little boy pissing in the river."

"Mine. Next?"

"The little apothecary jars labeled 'Hashish,' 'Cocaine,' and 'Cannabis.'"

"Mine. Next?"

"The litle salt cellars that looked like little footie bathtubs?"

"Aunt Judy's. Next?"

"The yellow chairs?"

Well, I got those yellow chairs, though they're a little ragged now.

He told me she made them and upholstered them herself back in the beer years, but had them professionally re-upholstered when they moved up to gin.

#54 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 10:37 PM:

My partners and cats (two human, four feline) are the most precious because they're the only things that are not replaceable in my life.


I have a photo of my father and family, he looked like he was three or four at the time (it looks like a snapshot, not a formal portrait--Brownie camera? It had to be 1926-27 in time).

My laptop has all my thoughts, ideas, etc. I back it up often but I've had one stolen and it was devastating. The current one is named Stardust, after the NASA mission.

The first Ballentine Lord of the Rings trilogy, with the wonderful red/purple/blue/etc. art covers. It's too fragile to take out of the box much anymore. When I wanted to re-read prior to the movie release, I bought the trade paperback volumes with the photo-from-the-movie covers. The tail feathers of my very first pet, Otis the mis-named female budgerigar, are interleaved in the pages. I think I first read it with her on my shoulder/arm/hand 'helping'. She was a sweet little soul that I still miss.

Otherwise we have too much stuff. We seem to be accumulating stuff from family members who are downsizing, too. Yikes!

#55 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 10:50 PM:

Despite my near-pathological difficulty in getting rid of stuff (the result of 2.6 fire equivalents as a child), I don't actually have any truly special objects.

But, I'm almost never without my Leatherman Wave and my leather belt pouch with the real necessaries (CPR shield, 2 pair gloves, small packet aspirin, really good tiny flashlight,extra battery, bullet pen, and blank business cards for writing notes) which is a talisman against disaster.

Things that have some meaning once I think about it:
The cast iron pancake pan that has helped me make pancakes since I was four (slightly concave -- so the butter slides to the center), the portable Kipling that has kept me entertained in doctor's offices, bus stations, and while waiting for any number of thinks, and my father's staghorn handled hunting knife from Abercrombie and Fitch -- not because it was my father's, but because I'm perpetually amused by how the company's business has changed (I would be similarly amused by a run-of-the-mill tool from Brookstone's from when they were a hardware store (I undoubtedly still have some, but they aren't distinguishable), or military surplus from Banana Republic (all worn out)).

#56 ::: K.C. Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 10:57 PM:

We moved a lot when I was a kid, and I still move fairly often (the longest I've ever lived in one place was five years). In addition, my mother had to leave everything behind except us kids and start over with absolutely nothing, more than once. Until I thought about it now, I hadn't realized how much I'd internalized the idea that things are to be enjoyed and loved and used, but that eventually you lose them, and that's okay.

I do have some things that I don't want to lose. The silk batik of Salome that my grandmother made is probably my most precious thing. If I ever have a fire, assuming my dog and cats are safely out first, I'd grab the batik.

And my ancient and heavy feather pillow is the only pillow I've ever found that's truly comfortable. I've had it for about a quarter century now, and it was old when I got it. I also love the blue teapot and two matching mugs that my mother gave me. They're handmade by a local artist.

My Kromski Symphony spinning wheel and Asus eee laptop are dear to me, but they're tools and therefore replaceable.

#57 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 10:58 PM:

hamletta @ 53: Used book sellers often have My Book House sets available. One told me once that it's nearly impossible to find a set where volume 1 isn't trashed (as mine is), because the youngest children who liked the nursery rhymes often wore it out before they knew how to treat books.

My uncle may have regretted my grandparents' decision a little bit -- he was an antiques dealer for many years, and picked up several extra sets along the way after my grandparents gave the originals to me.

I agree, they're beautiful artifacts -- the physical look of them is very important to me, beyond just the stories in them.

That howdah sounds AMAZING.

#58 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 10:58 PM:

Hmm. I could do a long list of 'second-order' stuff (...yes, we have Too Much Stuff...); but the one item at the very top of my list is my father's Starrett combination square.

I use it every time I do woodworking - and it still connect us, nearly 20 years after his death.

What's hilarious is that - despite how reverently I was taught to treat it - as a pure anonymous object, it would be surprisingly cheap to replace.

My list of 'second-order' stuff would start with the Family Picnic Blanket, the one that's slightly older than I am, the blanket that I parked my own children on, in their turn...but that's probably enough for now.

#59 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 11:03 PM:

One of my favorite things is my P.O.W. bracelet; as a military brat during the Vietnam War, a lot of us wore them to show support for the P.O.W.'s. Mine is inscribed to "Maj. Robert Stirm 10-27-67" (he was promoted to Lt. Colonel). I kept it after he returned because the photo of him meeting his family won the 1974 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography; the photo by Slava Veder of Associated Press was titled Burst of Joy. I've worn it since then, and only had it off a few times for surgery over the years.

I have a decades-old afghan blanket assembled from granny squares in the pattern of a chess board; I can't actually play chess on it, as it's five squares by eight, but, as an avid chess player, my grandmother's gift was spot on.

I have two acoustic guitars, a fifty year old Gibson and a thirty year old Garcia (which may actually be a Japanese firewood knockoff, but it's the one I cared about so much that I gave it a name).

One historical artifact that I've kept since 1985 is a hardcopy transcript of the very first login session of the SMOF-BBS. I don't know if that's the kind of thing that a science fiction museum would be interested in, though; I may revisit that idea in 2010 (the 25th anniversary of the BBS).

#60 ::: Keith K ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 11:08 PM:

these are the objects I need:
My camera: I'm a photographer by trade, but even if no one paid me, I couldn't give it up. The particular camera doesn't much matter, so much that I always have a functioning one. I always have at least a little point-and-shoot on me. I suppose my first SLR has a bit of sentimental value as well.

My laptop: vital if I want to get anything out of the first.

A pair of hard drives: One for my music collection, and one for my photo archives. It amazes me that what used to be a roomful of CDs and a (short) career's work can fit on two objects the size of a brick. In a fire, these would be the first inanimate objects I'd go for, since all the rest can be easily replaced.

#61 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 11:12 PM:

My most precious things are friendships.

#62 ::: Cynthia Wood ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 11:16 PM:

* My bo - six feet of perfect Osage Orange wood, custom-made for me. It looks like a toothpick bo, weighs like a real weapon - plus beautiful and with an absolute satin finish. It's the only karate gear I own that's not cheap student crap.

* My wedding ring. I love tri-color jewelry, and after my old wedding ring had to be cut off, my husband hunted high and low in secret to find the perfect ring - a plain band with rings of rose gold, white gold and yellow, in satin finish, separated by thin shiny grooves. I have no idea where he found it, and I love it utterly.

*My cuff bracelet - another tri-color jewelry present from my husband - a silver cuff with a howling wolf in rose gold.

*My piano -though as much as I love it, I may not keep this one. It was my grandfather's piano, a Steinway living room grand (Model L). It's a far better piano than I could afford - but also somewhat better than I can afford to take care of the way it deserves to be. Plus, in all honesty, Steinways in general and this piano in particular, don't fit my playing terribly well. So I'm at least considering letting my piano pass to someone who can love and care for it as it deserves, and getting myself something smaller with a lighter action.

#63 ::: Arete ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 11:21 PM:

I'm an irredeemable packrat: books, fabric, yarn, anime, manga... Yeah, I like to collect things. Strangely enough, the things that I *value* I didn't even take with me to college, they stayed in my bedroom at home, waiting for me to come back.

1. My Bub-bub (yiddish for grandmother) made myself and my sister matching bedsit dolls - you know, the plastic dolls with the crochet dress, petticoat and apron? The way to tell the difference is our initials on the apron. I liked it growing up, but it was only in the last year it has meant even more to me: I found the pattern she used, and decided to make one for a second cousin my family dotes on. Spending the time making hers... I realize what time my grandmother spent on mine. As she died nearly two decades ago, I can't tell her that... but I hope she knows anyway.

2. My senior prom dress. The two piece, bodice with boning and a full skirt, style was big when I was a senior, and I very much liked it. Unfortunately, while we (my mother and I) could find dresses that fit... they were in colors that I both hated and thought I looked horrible in. My mother had me find fabric I did like - ice blue and a transparent darker blue fabric that had silvery dots on it - and made me the dress I wanted. I love that dress, and if I ever lose enough weight, it would still fit. I still thank her for it, and remember how I felt beautiful in it.

#64 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2008, 11:23 PM:


Oh yeah.
My pillow - travel sized and filled with something unidentifiable (except as not feathers), acquired too long ago for me to remember.

#65 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 12:29 AM:

I'm another military brat, and we always lost stuff each move. Heirlooms, from my side of the family at least, are a bit short around our place.

There are two exceptions -- our wedding rings. I was a reporter when we married, which meant that I was chrnically broke. My wife to be still had her mother's ring, which she wanted to use and which solved that problem. My father had been dead a couple of years at that point and my mother surpised me with his ring. He had died a few weeks after their 25th anniversary, and Marilee and I will be married 29 years this coming December.

Sometimes I just take it off, look at it for a while, and think of the half century or so it represents in my family. There really isn't much else left.

#66 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 12:40 AM:

The cats, of course.

I have some family things I've liberated (and have passed some on to my brother, who, at 50, decided family history was interesting), but the things that delight me are the cats and my cell phone. I have really small hands and I have a very small phone that fits perfectly. Fits in my pocket well, too.

#67 ::: whump ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 01:24 AM:

A polaroid photo of my mother and father holding me when I was a few months old. Mom's wearing cool catseye framed glasses. Dad looks tired, but happy. I'm laughing for all my small self was worth.

My pins. I look for them when I'm traveling to remember where I've been, and wear them on my fleece jacket, or attach them to my pack. Japan was great for that. I could buy pins for a 100 yen coin from vending machines.

A big piece of rose quartz given to me by a woman I was smitten with back in graduate school.

The little steampunk robot avatar that is my "work wardrobe" in Second Life. It's become iconic. Though some residents have accused me of looking at small appliances with a lustful eye.

#68 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 02:01 AM:

Oh, three physical things...

(1) A cheaply made tiny flag that a fellow carpooler gave me when I became an American in 1994.

(2) A dog-eared and worn-out B&W photo of the 2-year-old me with my parents that, unbeknownt to me, my dad had been keeping in his wallet, and which my mom gave me when he died in 1993.

(3) A card of Lucy van Pelt as a mermaid that my wife-to-be gave me on my 30th birthday, in 1985.

#69 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 02:06 AM:

I guess I'd want the Spanish acoustic guitar, since it's the one I played most. I've even thought of selling the six-string electric Rickenbacker, so obviously it's not as highly valued.

A couple of family photos, fortuitously arranged on the table next to the door I'd be liable to exit from in case of emergency.

Nothing else is particularly irreplaceable or holds any sentimental attachment for me.

#70 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 02:30 AM:

- A knife. Not the cheap Chinese kitchen knife which is my weapon of choice in the kitchen but one of an unmatched pair my partner & I made* while holidaying in the South Island of New Zealand. They are mementos of a great experience.

- A much read copy of Tolkien's LoTR. It was a seminal influence on me as a reader.

- Memories: of great meals, wines, of good times with friends and family, and of thrilling, memorable, enjoyable experiences.

*Closer to the truth to say that I was involved in its manufacture. The people who ran the workshop did all the work making sure that the end product turned out good.

#71 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 03:45 AM:

I have a brass good-luck necklace my husband's mother wore when she was a little girl. She never learned enough English nor I enough Chinese that we could have a conversation, but she always said I was her favourite daughter-in-law (I suppose because I never argued with her!).

A small green copy of "Daily Light on the Daily Path" is inscribed to my mother in March, 1933, when she was a teenager. In her grandmother's handwriting, it says, "In memory of a happy visit." When I was in grade seven, in a effort to improve my atrocious handwriting, my teacher required me to do a page of practice writing every single day. I copied texts out of this little book all year long. It didn't do much for my handwriting, I'm afraid, but it did fill my head with magnificent cadences: "O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee.---Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God.---Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness, make thy way straight before my face.---My times are in thy hands." I'm not a believer any more, but this little book is still a comfort.

Memories can be attached to the oddest things. There's a sturdy spring-loaded wooden toilet roll spindle in our bathroom now, black when it was new, but the paint has worn to show the wood underneath. The builder installed it when my parents' house was built in 1951, and it has seen uninterrupted duty ever since. It is still doing the job it was designed to do, humbly, competently, without any slippage or rattle or fuss like the cheap chrome bars sold today. It will outlast me -- and my grandchildren too, if someone doesn't carelessly throw it into a city dump.

I like all of these things because, well... I guess the common thread is: continuity.

#72 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 03:48 AM:

I relocated from Cambridge MA to Seattle for a year, and I decided to move the bare minimum of stuff (I rented my Cambridge apartment furnished). I learned that, much as I love my art and book collection dearly, what I decided that I couldn't live without for a year was based strictly on function. Only the two cats serve no (apparent) purpose; other than the art, they're also almost the only 'things' I own that aren't fungible. Of course, they are also the only 'belongings' that I am guaranteed to lose eventually (they're getting rather elderly). Many moves, starting as child, must have trained me to value experiences more than objects; I imagine it's why I decided to live on the other side of the country for a year, but in an almost ascetically bare apartment. Don't get me wrong; I love my stuff. But whatever the pack-rat gene is, I definitely don't have it.

#73 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 04:51 AM:

For whatever reason, I don't get all that attached to things. I could name three, though:

1) My CPAP machine. Because I can still remember being in a state where I'd forgotten how it felt to be rested, and I don't want to go back there.

2) My ceramic bowl, made by Jon Singer, with the secret writing in it. The interior is white, but under ultraviolet light it has an Angerthas G-rune that fluoresces. Jo Walton encouraged me to buy it at a Minicon art show, because my name starts with G. It lives on my desk, and I keep my small collection of coins in it. (These are silver coins I've gotten out of the register at work -- mostly dimes, but a couple of quarters; one 1945 Mercury dime; plus one 1943 steel penny, and the 1948 farthing coin that was a souvenir of the second Farthing Party.)

3) My Green Lantern ring made of silver, set with a lab emerald.

#74 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 05:25 AM:

I have a backpack that I'm attached to (and is frequently attached to me). I don't drive; I bicycle most places I need to get to, and the backpack is how I carry most things (I joke that it is the trunk of my car).

I think I've had this particular pack for about 15 years; it is the fourth pack I've had. I picked it up at a second hand shop for about $15. The interior had some sort of rubberized coating that was supposed to waterproof it; the first time I was caught in a downpour I found that it didn't keep water out, but kept it in (collected a few pounds of water, and ruined a roll of stamps I had just bought). I added some grommets to the bottom to act as drain holes, and started using a large plastic trash bag inside the pack to truly protect the cargo.

The pack has a flap with cords designed to be tied off; I added a couple of reflectors (useful feature for bike riding) that the cord could be wrapped around, and attached clips to the ends of the cords so the loose ends could fastened to the frame.

I have a rear-view mirror contrivance made from an old Volkswagen rear-view mirror attached to an arm made out of electrical conduit, which can pivot over my left shoulder when I am cycling (and pivots back to take less space when I don't need it — or can be detached entirely). It was originally designed one backpack ago, but the latest incarnation could be attached to any other frame backpack very easily (loosen some hose clamps, attach to new frame). I am so used to using it that I joke I feel undressed riding without it.

I have already been doing some patching and stitching to stave off wear; have a ways to go before it is as worn as the pack it replaced.

#75 ::: Scott ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 05:31 AM:

Answering, before reading, to keep my list from my own mind.

1. My beat up black leather trench-coat. It's about 50% unwearable now, from having been so beat up (and I am having trouble finding people willing to repair/replace/renew shredded nylon interiors to leather goods). Not only is it the single most expensive lone garment I own (combining both of the garments of my tuxedo were marginally more expensive than the coat) but I've practically lived in that coat. I travelled Europe with that coat (and overstuffed the pockets on a regular basis, which is why they aren't pockets anymore). That coat kept me warm when I spent the night in Himeji station during a poorly planned Japan visit. That coat... I had more than a year before the release of The Matrix, which defense is still worthless in deflecting accusations of copying The Matrix when I'm wearing my wrap-around sunglasses.

2. CD collection. I suppose, to a certain line of thinking, it's actually like... 1000 objects. But any one of them wouldn't make the list. It would be relatively easy to replace. The bunch all together though... well... there's the price, but also the knowledge that I'd never put it back together again. There are CDs in that collection that I doubt I'd ever convince myself to spend money on again, but I retain because they (properly speaking: the music on them) were such a part of my life, that discarding, losing, or selling them would be like denying my own past.

3. Hmm, no... I guess that's it. Everything else is not just ultimately replaceable, but almost all of the rest is expected to be replaced not so long from now.

#76 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 06:51 AM:

A few photographs, a few of my books (I realised, thinking about this question, that I've had my copy of Plato's Republic since I was eighteen, and a couple of anthologies of poetry even longer, and they've gone everywhere with me). But people, in the end, matter more than things.

#77 ::: Sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 07:11 AM:

Tangentially related (in that words are a favourite thing for everyone, right?)is this BBC list of

50 favourite words.

Defenestrate is there, of course, but also a number of words that I had never heard of before but now adore.

Obviously a Brit bias, as can be seen by number 20:

If you ever fly into the US, then one of the questions you're asked on the entry form you have to fill in is "Have you ever been convicted of moral turpitude?" What a great word turpitude is! I've never heard it anywhere else, but I can guess what it means and that the required answer is "NO". Just the sound of it is faintly dubious, once you've realised that it's not something you use to clean your paint brushes with.

#78 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 08:51 AM:

Wikipedia has rather a wonderful list of offences not involving moral turpitude, and which are thus OK:

* Damaging private property (where intent to damage not required)
* Breaking and entering (requiring no specific or implicit intent to commit a crime involving moral turpitude)
* Passing bad checks (where intent to defraud not required)
* Possessing stolen property (if guilty knowledge is not essential)
* Joy riding (where the intention to take permanently not required)
* Juvenile delinquency
* Trespassing
* Black market violations
* Breach of the peace
* Carrying a concealed weapon
* Desertion from the Armed Forces
* Disorderly conduct
* Drunk or reckless driving
* Driving while license suspended or revoked
* Drunkenness
* Escape from prison
* Failure to report for military induction
* False statements (not amounting to perjury or involving fraud)
* Firearm violations
* Gambling violations
* Immigration violations
* Liquor violations
* Loan sharking
* Lottery violations
* Minor traffic violations
* Possessing burglar tools (without intent to commit burglary)
* Smuggling and customs violations (where intent to commit fraud is absent)
* Tax evasion (without intent to defraud)
* Vagrancy
* Assault (simple) (i.e., any assault, which does not require an evil intent or depraved motive, although it may involve the use of a weapon, which is neither dangerous nor deadly)
* Bastardy (i.e., the offense of begetting a bastard child)
* Creating or maintaining a nuisance (where knowledge that premises were used for prostitution is not necessary)
* Fornication
* Incest (when a result of a marital status prohibited by law)
* Involuntary manslaughter (when killing is not the result of recklessness)
* Libel
* Mailing an obscene letter
* Mann Act violations (where coercion is not present)
* Riot
* Suicide (attempted)

...sounds like quite a weekend.

#79 ::: SylvieG ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 08:51 AM:

Mine are all baby-me related: a stuffed pig crocheted by my grandmother, a tiny t-shirt with 'Salut, j'suis Sylvie' on it that barely fits my hand now but that I'm assured I used to wear, the blanket I came home from the hospital in. Vindications that I was born, was loved, and have a purpose.

Everything else perished in the great dog vs. skunk fiasco of 2006. Nothing like having to throw out 75% of your stuff to teach you how little of it you needed in the first place.

#80 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 08:53 AM:

I forgot, I meant to include my grandmother's small frying pan. She used it a lot, to make all kinds of nummy things. I have other cookware from her house too, but this one has the most emotional weight for me. Everytime I use it, I think of her.

I also have some sterling silver animals that my grandfather made for me, from my little plastic animals. I have my collection and my brother has his.

#81 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 09:07 AM:

Ginger @ 80... She used it a lot, to make all kinds of nummy things.

It took me a moment to realize that your grabndmother wasn't using the pan for making mummy things. Thru trepanation?

#82 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 09:12 AM:

I'm not sure I have any especially precious possessions. Many of the objects that would seem to be likely candidates have been in storage since I last moved, which was a while ago, and I appear to have survived without them so far. And while I have things that go everywhere with me and get used every day, like my PDA, it's not the things themselves that are important; if I lost the PDA, I would get a new one and move on.

On the other hand... when I was doing the washing up last week, I realised that one of the bowls had a crack in it. It's one of a set where each bowl has a different floral pattern, and that particular bowl has been My Bowl since I was very young. I've put it carefully aside until I can decide what to do with it; it's not the kind of photogenic bowl one can display on a stand on the mantelpiece, even if I was a display-things-on-stands kind of person and even if I had a mantelpiece, but I find that we've come too far together for me to want to part ways now.

#83 ::: Individ-ewe-al ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 09:24 AM:

I have a lot of stuff, I'm pack-ratty. But I don't think there's any single item that I'd risk my life to save from a fire. If I had to run away, I'd pack practical essentials, nothing of sentimental value. I don't own any tools because I don't make anything; it's one of the things I most dislike about myself, but I'm not creative at all. Such heirlooms as we have are in my parents' house, they never make it as far as any of the temporary digs where I've lived since leaving home.

Possible candidates are a pocket-sized photo album with a few of my favourite shots from my teens (including a photo of my first ever electrophoretic gel), and a Frodo miniature that the love of my life painted for me. I have a teak apple full of trinkets with histories, so I might take that, just because everything is together and it's easy to grab.

#84 ::: Matt ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 09:28 AM:

Not so much a single object, but a category - I love having a telescope. My first one was big Dob, you needed a step stool to look in the eyepiece. The first time my grandfather, who was very reserved and somewhat old fashioned, looked at the Orion nebula through it he said "Holy shit!" and fell off the stool. I've owned various telescopes for years now, and I still get a "Holy shit!" feeling every time I observe.

I also love my plants. Again its not a particular plant I love, but the having of plants. I'm particularly fond of the edible ones, but don't tell that to the blue irises. If I ever get lots of money, one of the first things I'd buy is a house on enough land to start a small orchard. (Hmm, not only is this another category rather than a specific object, its becoming a category I'd like at some point in the future to be precious to me... Better quit while I'm ahead.)

#85 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 09:47 AM:

I love this kind of post. Thanks, Abi.

My most prized possession is the quilt my maternal grandmother made for me. It's on my bed because I don't believe it hiding it away where it can't be seen. She made things to be used, so I use it.

Next comes the print of "Nighthawks" by Hopper. I'm a morning bird by nature, but after a stint of doing a graveyard shift in a 24 hour truckstop back in college, the work speaks volumes to me.

Finally, I carry the backups of my writing and digital photography with me wherever I go.

#86 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 09:48 AM:

Serge (61):

My most precious things are friendships.

But Serge, you have to list the top three!

[I see great social turmoil in your near future. HehHeh]

#87 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 09:50 AM:

Rikibeth @ #10, OHHHH! I grew up with an old decrepit set of "My Book House"! I can still see (and smell) them. What great memories.

Ginger @#40, I share your feelings about hot tea, to the extent that if civilization should collapse, I would make my way on foot to the Charleston Tea Plantation and steal cuttings. I would also try to steal from the UGA library the old USDA bulletins (early 1900s) that explain the planting, culture, and home processing of tea.

Handdrummer @ #44, everyone should have such a grandfather.

That my house contains 4 people, 4 cats and 4 dogs means that in any emergency I'd be unable to save any material possessions (if I had time, I'd grab water and dog and cat food. If I only had a little time, I'd grab the allergy food for the elderly dachshund with the multiple food allergies). But the things I'd miss most include the computers, which have all our fiction-in-progress on them, and the thoughtful and specific handwritten postcard Ursula LeGuin sent me in response to a fan letter. I have a lot of unusual clothes I love, but I'm always finding more, so that's okay.

I also have a copy of Doctor Dolittle that my sister gave me when I was small. I could already read by then, but she must have read me the whole book at some point, because now when I read or even hold that particular copy, I hear her voice. I'd miss that, even though she lives nearby and I see her fairly often.

#88 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 10:14 AM:

I have a bookshelf made for my by my father. It isn't priceless because he's gone (he's not, and heaven forbid), but because it was the first piece of "real" furniture I had as a grownup. I terrified someone during our last move by reaching up to the top shelf and pulling the whole thing down toward me - he was sure I'd be crushed. But it is made of white pine, so even though it is seven feet tall, I can carry it alone if someone will help me watch the corners.

Other than that, the things that sprang to mind as favorites were my things I'm deliberately thinking of as transitory. All three of them are drinking vessels (two cups and a glass) and all came from the thrift store.

The glass was first, bought to be something to drink from at work that wasn't disposable. I got lucky and found something really pretty and possibly hand-blown* - full of bubbles and slivers of milliflori canes.

The second was a blue teacup. It's doesn't hold a full eight ounces and is stylistically in that zone between mug and cup - it isn't a saucer-and-tea-service cup, at least. It is a beautiful shade of Tiffany blue and has a lovely shape, and something about it suggests that it might be made in the sixties. I didn't need a cup when I bought it, but every time I have tea at home I look for it first. I'm glad I didn't pass it by. It just pleases me.

The most recent cup is possibly a small coffee cup rather than a teacup, but it also doesn't hold eight ounces. It's off-white (the color of the clay with a clear glaze) and has a raised basket-weave pattern. It, too, is just pleasing to hold and drink from and I smile when I have tea at work.

I've been firmly telling myself to enjoy them while they last, that I am allowed miss them when they're gone, but they only cost fifty cents each and the inevitable breakage isn't going to be a tragedy. I'm not sure the brainwashing is working in regard to the blue cup, but I have to try.

*For "sold at Crate and Barrel" values of "hand-blown."

#89 ::: Opher Lubzens ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 10:15 AM:

Three things
1.A copy of the older Hebrew translation for "I, Robot"- this is the first SF book I ever read, when I was about 7.5 years old.One of the 2-3 books I own that have too much sentimental value for me to loan to friends.

2.A Chinese wooden box made from the bark of a cinnamon tree, a gift my aunt gave me during my teens- for years when I was down I would open it and inhale the rich smell and find I have more energy then I thought.

3.A drawing really talented friend of mine gave me- the first gift she gave me.I like it so much I pretty much swore that it will hang wherever I live.

#90 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 10:35 AM:

I love my swiss army knife, and have in its many incarnations. I particularly love the little screwdriver that twists into the corkscrew. My mug from a craft fair 25 years ago. And in a presentation box on the dresser, a bunch of cigars that some business associate gave my father 30 years ago or so. They sucked even, or he would have smoked them, but the smell is comforting.

(Some of my materialism is historical -- I can tell you the original acquisition and purpose of most of the scrap wood in my shop. Some of it is functional -- I didn't love that five-dollar chinese cleaver just because it came from the closing sale at H. Roth, but because it whispered through meats and vegetables like no other knife I've ever handled. We'll see if the copy does as well.)

#91 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 10:41 AM:


the "fit in a car" versus "you've got a minute" lists are significantly different, because "fit in a car" involves not only things that are precious to me, but things I have a responsibility to.

"you've got a minute" includes besides the stuff that is always with me (Leatherman, wallet, EnV cellphone, keys, flashlight, USB drive with Important Stuff on it), and the stuff that I need for survival (laptops (work and personal)...

a copy of Starship Troopers that belonged to my father (before I absconded with it). One of the first printings (the green moonscape cover), it is rather thumbworn at this point, but the binding is still fairly strong, and it's still readable.

My charm box - just a little pasteboard box, filled with various mementos - a pair of medallions (one given me by a friend, the other my St. Barbara medal), some favors given during my time in the SCA, things like that). Not important - but treasured.

A sword - my bonding blade with my sword-brother, and an actual, "live steel" sword, not a wall-hanger.

four wolf postcards in hangers. Gifts from a former girlfriend, and I'm quite fond of them.

Ravenwing, my cloak, given me by my mentor in the SCA. Heavy as hell, warm as all get out, and just a little too short to be really useful in the rain...

Have I the time, my great-grandfather's Winchester lever action. Because it is over a century old, a piece of family history, and American history - it's a fairly unique configuration that we've only seen a couple of examples of over the years. Have I a little more time, the rest of the contents of the safe - for reasons of responsibility, not necessarily emotion.

Other than that - there are a number of things I would miss terribly - artwork, mostly, a few near-irreplaceable books (RPG and otherwise), a handful of stuffed animals, a couple of bedthrows that while not particularly rare, I happen to like quite a bit, etc. - but are not things that I will spend precious minutes saving versus saving me or others.

#92 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 11:12 AM:

My most precious things are friendships.

But Serge, you have to list the top three!

In an evil apple-of-discord moment I came up with a Facebook addon that would create millions of traumas and broken friendships:

Friendship Levels.

At present it just says "Bob has sent you a friend request" and you can either accept and join the list of Bob's friends, or reject.

This addon would mean that it would say "Bob has sent you a friend request, level 6 out of 10" - intended to indicate the strength of the friendship. You'd then either reject, or accept at a level of your choice.

Imagine the potential!

"Bob friended me level 6? But I thought we were an 8!"

"Bob friended me level 6? But I barely know him! OMG stalker!"

"Alice replied to my friend request, but she said we were only level 4, not level 6! She hates me!"

(demonic laugh)

#93 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 11:59 AM:

Various papers and artwork of mine that I'm in the process of backing up on my jump-drive that I wear all the time.
My staff, a length of oak 2 x 2 with a metal spike [that I made ] on top. Which I have treasured in various "incarnations" since I was 10 and used it to test the depth of swamps. Well, I could replace that, I just wouldn't want to be without one just like it. So I will say the 2nd one would be the music I have backed up on minidiscs [and now will probably have to put on a spare hard drive]. I could replace much of that, I guess, but not all--including an ancient recording of a Purcell march for trumpet and orchestra that was the first music that ever showed me how wonderful music is.
My little trebuchet, also made by me, first of its particular subspecies in the world. I could build another, but it would be real hard, especially without a machine shop to do it in [any shop out there want a seasoned but only partially/informally trained machinist/QA inspector??]
The book that I wouldn't rescue but which will be cremated with me is a too-marked-up-to-resell copy of Stapledon's Last and First Men and Star Maker from Dover Books, that I got when I was 15, and was awestruck by--even in the midst of a 200 mph windstorm.
But under all this is the knowledge, gained slowly but surely by me, that I will never again let anyone make me feel bad about being more interested/attached to things/ideas than people.

#94 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 12:09 PM:

ajay @ 92... Of course, on a rating of 1 to 10, my wife is a 17.

#95 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 12:27 PM:

Not my favourite things, but they are easily replaceable, just with different memories attached.

The cat is not a thing. Whether or not she's important, she doesn't deserve to go with the house.
(can you tell I'm in the process of becoming a cat person?)

But I would take my Advanced Squad Leader collection. It's in a (big) rolly-tray for easy transport. It's also almost impossible to replace. (subrosa: I'd probably throw my laptop bag in the bin as well. But if it had to go, it doesn't have anything ON it - I just would want an instant-on computer).

The other two are eminently replaceable, but again are family: my teddy bear (it was almost as big as me when I was 9...) and my winnie-the-pooh (pre Disney) and H.C. Andersenhus teacups (both from grandparents, on either side of the family).

#96 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 12:39 PM:

Julian Barnes, on cleaning up his parents' things:
'now, here for the last time, something that had been chosen, then lived with, wiped, dusted, polished, repaired, loved'
In my recent cleanup, that was the hardest part. My mother had a collection of mismatched china, some of it from her mother, used so well that it had faded and thinned to a transparent grey-green. It had no value except having been loved.

For myself there are no objects I could not live without. I'm fond of the English-made Orvis fly reel that was a 21st birthday present; a red canoe that we've paddled in waters from Florida to Alaska; an old steel-frame Paramount road bike. I'd miss them, but it's more the memories attached than the ding an sich.

#97 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 12:50 PM:

anthology of New Yorker cartoons from the twenties, thirties and forties, from my grandfather's collection.

a storybook handmade for me when I was four by my aunt

(now regrettably lost) my Faber-Castell fountain pen

a manual typewriter that actually has a key for the one and the exclamation point (found at a typewriter repair shop that no longer exists)

(now regrettably no longer have) a Corona portable folding typewriter

a nautical chart of the Potomac, with Washington, DC on the map with its street grid as it appeared in the 1880's, and a water stain that actually adds to its charm because it is parallel to the water current on the map

various old print, posters and magazine covers

a small Indian rug

#98 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 01:01 PM:

Snipped from an article about the Dead Sea Scrolls being on exhibit (from New York Times), because it seems relevant:

"Go, finally, because there is something rarely felt in exhibitions, and
which the critic Walter Benjamin argued was heading toward extinction. In
the 1930s he suggested that art objects were now so easily reproduced that
they were being stripped of their 'aura.' Aura, he suggested, is connected
with uniqueness, but it also involves a sense of distance. An object
possessing aura stands at a distance from us, no matter how near we get to

#99 ::: JJ Fozz ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 01:04 PM:

My watch that I wear every day, given to me by my mother, I have marked some epic and tragic events with this timepiece

The Blessed Mother medal that was given to my father from a relative who purchased it in Vatican city and had it blessed by the Pope. I thought I had lost it when I was 14 while riding my dirtbike in a huge field. It was found three months later by a friends' daughter buried in mud underneath my parents' porch.

My wedding ring - the best day of my life (regardless of how much I might bitch about her) which led to two other best days: son 1 and son 2

#100 ::: Zed Lopez ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 01:04 PM:

First on the list would have to be the used recumbent bicycle I bought in '97, which has been my principal means of transportation since. Other than the frame, very, very little remains of the original bike -- the hub, rim, and most of the spokes of the rear tire, one gear shifter, the derailleurs, one or maybe two of the front cogs, the crank arms. Included when I think of my bike are the accessories that make it useful, like the heavy duty rack and panniers, the helmet-mounted halogen headlight, the case-hardened steel chain lock, the tiny, ruthlessly efficient bike pump and bike multi-tool for repairs on the go, the clothes to keep me warm and dry during a rainy Berkeley winter.

#101 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 02:03 PM:

Serge @ 81: She did make my mummy, although she herself was from Transylvania.

Besides all that, she was from Eastern Europe, and they cooked with butter. Boy howdy, did they ever. That particular pan was used to saute chicken liver and onions, one of my favorite little nummy dishes.

Thinking of her stuff reminds me of her Czechoslovakian roseware dishes, the really good china that she gave to me. We've started entertaining, and we're using them. She would have enjoyed seeing them used.

#102 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 02:15 PM:

Ginger @ 101... She did make my mummy, although she herself was from Transylvania

...must not... make... obvious jokes...

(The father of the girl I had a crush on high school was from Romania.)

#103 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 03:56 PM:

Well, I have my mother's Girl Scout book and my father's Boy Scout book, which is kind of cool.

But I'd trade them both for a wave of a magic wand that would make everything in my house disappear. (Assuming I'd still get the insurance money; I mean, there are tools I use to function in daily life, but nothing that's irreplacable.)

#104 ::: Nick Kiddle ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 04:51 PM:

On tools and clean-up: a couple of years ago, my paternal grandmother decided to downsize following my grandfather's death, and the family pitched in to clean up my grandad's shed and claim what was worth claiming. I claimed a fairly complete set of basic tools, which I cleaned and occasionally use.

A few months later, my dad was visiting and I asked him to help me fix something too complicated for me. He asked if I had a wire brush, and I triumphantly produced one that had belonged to his dad. He said, "There is life after death."

A few months after that, my maternal grandfather died, and I had to pitch in with another clean-up. He was a fellow writer and book-lover, so I claimed many useful and pretty things, but the thing that stands out is the microwave cookbook, which I claimed purely as the tangible tie to a very specific memory.

#105 ::: cap ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2008, 06:16 PM:

I only have one thing that I feel is truly and completely irreplaceable, and that is my stuffed giraffe I got for Christmas when I was two (from Santa, of course). He and I have been together ever since. We've shared 20 years of history, and that's longer than I've been with anyone else, except my parents.

I have a couple other things that I would like to keep for a long time, because they too are attached to many memories. One I only recently discovered I possessed: a tiny notebook wherein my late grandmother recorded all of the romance novels she read, from 2002 - 2007. (She died this past January.) Some have comments, like Good book, or, in the case of one I lent her, Not too good. Icky ending. I can hear her say that, and it makes me smile.

I also have a Nalgene bottle that's gone basically everywhere with me since the 9th grade. I feel a little naked without it.

#106 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 12:32 AM:

I've read these and been trying to come up with some. Cat, yes. Plants, yes. Sunflowers go around the house so it's home.

Window prisms: back in the seventies, my dad picked up eight or so crystal window prisms, about eight inches long. He eventually hung them in our great room windows, where they put out rainbows until we got blinds and they had to come down. I stole them-- boy did I steal them-- in college, when I had a south-facing window. And now they are in mostly west-facing windows, two or three each, plus a couple glass bits I've added. One fell in college and broke on the slate windowsill; I can't think of anything that will hold it together, but I tried Krazy Glue (nope) and then wrapped it in clear packing tape (hey, it works). That rainbow is a little weird in the middle.

Each of them shines at a different time, in a different place. Most of the long ones lose green to some extent. The little disc-with-an-illusory-hole puts out an arc of vivid dabs of color on one wall every morning. The disco ball thing doesn't do rainbows so much as flecks of light.

Stuffies: Tramp and Bamsie. Tramp II, technically. I had Tramp, a little stuffed dog, and lost him when I was before remembering, though I think I remember the house and maybe even seeing him left behind. My grandma got me another one before she died. Bamsie came from an Easter basket at Grandma's, a stuffed duck wearing a straw hat. The hat came off, though the glue patches remained for years, and at some point I stole a doll bib from some other kid-- I definitely remember that, and trying to tell Mom that no, I couldn't leave, I had to give it back.

The Little Slanty Apartment is the first place I've lived that doesn't have a print of the Rembrandt with two sisters on the terrace, or something like that. Should fix that.

#107 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 12:58 AM:

I wrote previously (#72) about moving with very little of my stuff. Reading through all the family histories here, I put two and two together - my father's family lost almost everything they had relocating over the newly-created India-Pakistan border in 1947, and my parents moved to Canada with a couple of suitcases. And then I moved to India (and back) twice as a child, each time reducing all my possessions to a suitcase. Small wonder I have few possessions I couldn't walk away from.

R.M. Koske, #88: *For "sold at Crate and Barrel" values of "hand-blown."

One of the belongings that I do love and did bring with me is celadon bowl with a crackled glaze and matte black edging. It's the Platonic ideal of a cereal bowl, in my opinion - exactly the right shape, size and colour. But I bought it at Crate and Barrel, and it's eminently replaceable.

#108 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 01:03 AM:

Sylvia and Ajay, #77 and 78: on moral turpitude...

When I was applying for my US permanent residency, I had to sign a form that said, among other things, that I had "never knowingly committed a crime of moral turpitude." I'm pretty conscientious, so I asked my lawyer about it, and he said the rule of thumb is that if the jail term is longer than five years, it counts. Of course, being a lawyer, he also pointed out the the 'knowingly' part is important - if, for example, I was drunk or on drugs and committed such a crime, I could still sign with a clear conscience. (I think the closest I'd come was probably jaywalking, although admittedly both drunk and sober).

#109 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 02:13 AM:

David, #73, I also have a Jon Singer bowl -- no secret writing -- that I keep coins in. But they're just the coins that weigh down my wallet. When it's full, I move the coins to a bag and take them to the credit union to be counted.

Diatryma, #106, those prisms almost always come from old chandeliers. My grandmother had some in her east-facing kitchen window; I don't know what happened to them. I have some in my west-facing kitchen window (I only have west & north) and we have rainbows for part of all the sunny days.

#110 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 02:59 AM:

Taking as given that the cats and the family-by-choice top every inanimate material possession...

My favorite mug was a present from he who was my gay ex-fiance (now deceased), given on a Valentine's Day a year or two after we broke up. (As may be obvious, we stayed friends.) It's a plain ordinary "sayings" mug--for all I know, he bought it at a car wash, although it strikes me as higher quality than that--white interior, exterior is a purple background with three big hearts in pink, orange-red and red-red, with about the most wonderful disquisition on love I've ever read. Generally, if I have a hot beverage, I'm using this mug. mom's Frankoma dinnerware in the Mayan-Aztec pattern, in White Sand, plus various serving pieces in red (coffee mugs, a round-bellied carafe, etc.), bought at the Frankoma factory in June 1971 when we were in Tulsa for her class reunion. Simple shapes, nice design around the rims of the plates (and all over on some of the other pieces), good heft. Wonderful. I actually tried to give them away shortly after she died, but the person I offered them to refused. A few months later, I was awfully glad about that.

Then there are my maternal grandmother's dishes. If they aren't bone china, they ought to be--beautifully translucent, they are, and in a color I can't help but call "bone" whether it is or not. According to Mom, they're the same china pattern as was used on the inaugural flight of the Graf Zeppelin. (A short stint with Google suggests the 1928 flight of the LZ-127, as I think Mom would have said "the second Graf Zeppelin" had it been the post-Hindenburg LZ-130. But I can't be 100% certain.) The cups are the epitome of cups, with a beautiful, delicate lip that's a joy to drink from. And, unfortunately, easily damaged, which is why a few of them have bits glued back on.

My art-quality wrought-iron bed from the (possibly defunct) Santa Barbara gallery of Sequoia Santa Fe. If you look at the second photo on the page, and imagine that, instead of a tree-and-branch design, the four-poster had a rolling-hills-and-waves design, that would be my bed. I bought it in 2005 while on an enforced vacation in Santa Barbara--I was on the wrong side of the mudslide at La Conchita--and had decided to listen to a friend who said, "Hey, as long as you're there, you might as well check out the shops and galleries on State Street..."

And this watercolor, painted by my friend Gina. It makes me think that love is just waiting to be plucked, and it therefore makes me very happy.

Leaving out the books. Too many to mention.

#111 ::: Zora ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 03:34 AM:

My external HD, with all my data and my ebook library. (Computer can be replaced.)

My Sony Clie, with which to read aforesaid ebooks.

A copy of A Guide to True Peace, a Quaker spiritual manual, printed in 1816.

My books, my papers, and my sewing stash are are items 4 through 4000. Alas.

#112 ::: dichroic ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 04:02 AM:

I have a menorah of painted metal, in the shape of an airplane witht he candle-holders on top of the wingers on little stalks so it looks sort of like a biplane. And the pilot is fairly androgynous but looks like a woman to me. The winter I was working in Massachusetts I visited a friend in Maine. She took me just over the border to Portsmouth NH, where I saw this. I didn't buy it then - but it haunted me so that I went back for it, a few weeks later.

I bought my first dichroic earrings on that *first * visit to Portsmouth.

The pearls my husband gave me when we got engaged, and the ones I inherited from my grandmother.

My boat. (Hudson lightweight racing single rowing shell, in the Arizona flag sunrise design, with a decal of the Big Dipper as seen on the AK flag, for cooling thoughts.).

#113 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 10:43 AM:

A lot of my favorite things are books: A signed Manly Wade Wellman collection my parents bought for me. Some Kliban collections I managed to buy on ebay, in good shape, for a surprisingly reasonable price--his non-cat stuff has been a big influence lately. My collection of Doctor Who "New Adventures" novels, which are comfort fiction for me.

I'm also attached to pretty much any comics or artwork I've managed to complete, even the stuff that's not very good. Each one represents a small accomplishment--they make me feel like I've had some effect on the world, however minor.

#114 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 10:57 AM:

Interesting thinking about this. There's the dresser I've been using since I was three, that was my mother's before that. One of the drawers is slightly out of true, there's a loose handle, and sometime I should see if those are reparable. Even if we went and otherwise got new bedroom furniture, I'd want to keep that dresser; we can find things to match it, I hope. (Right now nothing matches; six things that did and one that didn't would make the valued one look like the anomaly.)

The nested Pyrex mixing bowls, in assorted colors, that were my mother's until she emigrated. At one point Andy and I were discussing buying stuff for the kitchen, and I said I hoped he didn't mind living with stuff that looked like my parents' house (there are some other Pyrex things, not as precious to me, but also used frequently) and he assured me that he liked it, because he'd grown up with very much the same things, and his mother still has her set.

There's an odd little red and black vase that I told my mother I wanted to get when she died, and she insisted on giving me right then. It will hold three sprigs of lily of the valley, and hasn't been used since my parents sold the house where we had lily of the valley growing in the yard, but I wanted it. (My brother has the cut crystal vases; when Mom offered to divide those among us, I told her he was welcome to all of them. I rarely use any vase, but I wanted the little one, not the crystal that would hold a bunch of roses or lilacs.

I have jewelry that I associate with people (much of it made by Elise), but no one item jumps out as most precious. There are several things that I associate with one or more of my beloveds, and it would be hard to choose. (Fortunately, if I were packing quickly, I could still fit all the beloved earrings and a few necklaces into one small bag.)

Books, many books, but as a physical object: the beat-up, autographed-to-me mass market paperback of Le Guin's Always Coming Home, in the condition it is from being carried around and read so often.

#115 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 11:12 AM:

Most of the things I'm attached to actually belong to my mother. One is her set of Pyrex bowls like the ones Vicki describes. Another is her secretary-desk. Also the family album my grandmother put together 35 years ago, which I am in the process of putting on CD.

I forsee big family fights when the time comes to divvy things up.

#116 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 01:15 PM:

Back at #17, joann expressed what a lot of us think: My husband and my cat go without saying. Friendships also fit in here.

Aside from them, I have tons of stuff and am rather packrattish (though a lot less acquisitive these days), but what come to mind first are: a craftish teal coffee mug that I irrationally cherish and use every day; a tall, narrow etching of vultures in a handsome frame; all my "memory substitute" notebooks, mostly of concert/rock show write-ups, dating back to the Sixties, and the LPs and CDs with the associated music; some photos (though Mom has more of those); my faves among the necklaces I've made, plus boxes of unused beads -- if I had room to include them; and, if I *really* had room and time, some of my favorite old clothes, especially the vests.

#117 ::: edward oleander ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 01:40 PM:

Old things... REALLY old... A chunk of 1.4 billion year old algae given me by the elementary principal who taught me to love science before I was 10... A 100,000 year old obsidian scraper made by one of Earth's original craftsmen...

And not so old... My collection of D&D materials going back 30 years and filling a floor to ceiling bookcase... My computer, which keeps me connected here, and houses my one, ongoing attempt at writing...

And most of all, my cheap and battered, stamped-copper Medicine bracelet. Sold to me for $5 in 1990 at a horse show where I made my public debut as a 1st Responder for the Red Cross, which lead to my nursing career. I have worn it nearly every day for over 18 years. It got me through my first, harrowing day in the medical world, and I haven't lost a patient while wearing it yet.

Abi, reading (and contributing to) this thread has necessitated a rather surprising amount of self-assessment and inward reflection. Thank you.

#118 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 02:41 PM:

ddb@1: I'm currently rather pleased to have what I think is the sliderule I used through highschool

I periodically kick myself for throwing away the Kane E-6B that I used when I was learning to fly (~35 years ago) -- more complex than a simple slide rule (the back did force-triangle calculations) but just as obsolete. (The article gives the basics; I doubt its claim that pilots today prefer the E-6B to electronics, but I don't know any current pilots to ask.)

Terry@13: (three moves = a fire). Townsend (Up the Organization) says two, but moving an office is different from moving a home.

It's odd -- if there are thing people and people people, I'm certainly a thing person (and certainly not a Thing person -- that's a people thing); but almost everything important is in my head (cf my posts in abi's previous thread). The long-gone Barry Moser poster for the Brothers Karamazov (the first major play production I worked on) would be interesting artistically, but there's nothing on it about what happened when the artist, hugely versed in all forms of art printing, suggested what he thought was an easier way to do a 3D task.

That applies even more to music; the Shaw signature on my disintegrating Ein Deutsches Requiem says nothing about the triumphant exhaustion at the end of possibly the most demanding work in classical choral music, let alone the nearly palpable applause when he gave the chorus its bow. The masters for most of the concert tapes I value still exist, although I'll have to get them made into CDs before the long-retired engineer dies. (I'm recalling 11th-grade English discussing "Ode to a Grecian Urn", on the difference between art that is tangible (hence fragile/losable) things and art that is a sequence of events.) I listen to them with something beyond pleasure, but I'm long past telling how much of that is the quality of performance and how much is the memory of performing.

Like several of you who have spoken (and I suspect others who think "That goes without saying!") I have way too many books; if I had to grab just a handful, it would probably be the personally-autographed copies of the few I produced and/or edited for NESFA Press, back when I had enough energy to overcome the way mere typesetting was massively more effort than it is now.

#119 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 03:54 PM:

Something else this thread brings to mind is how there are many things in my life I have no recollection of losing/misplacing/giving away/getting rid of -- but clearly no longer have. I wonder if there's some strange pockethole universe somewhere that's storing up these missing objects (along with socks, of course ;) )

#120 ::: Sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 04:01 PM:

Chip @118

The article gives the basics; I doubt its claim that pilots today prefer the E-6B to electronics, but I don't know any current pilots to ask.

I have one that I used whilst training and I know how to use it. I keep it in my flight bag - it's a piece of equipment on the plane that I know can't fail.

I'm only a PPL but I don't know a pilot who uses one by preference, with the possible exception of one instructor who likes to show off how quick he is with it. I don't think he'd bother if anyone else still used one. :P

#121 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 07:02 PM:

xeger@119: I thought missing socks went into the creation of hangers. After all, while I never have enough socks, I have more than enough hangers.

#122 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 07:18 PM:

ginger @ 121:

I have too many socks (almost any is too many for me) and hangers seem to disappear. Maybe we're trading pocket universes. Are any of your putative socks Fair Isle?

#123 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 09:34 PM:

joann @ 122: Not enough of them are Fair Isle; most of the missing ones are generic cotton blends. It must be someone else who is losing the good socks, and I must be getting your hangers.

#124 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2008, 09:55 PM:

Ginger @121: Re: too many coat-hangers: Or All the Seas with Oysters.

#125 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2008, 11:32 AM:

I'm not too much of a "thing" person - I'll admire things, but that doesn't mean that I want to own them. This seems to confound many people. But a lovely thing is lovely in its own right - my owning it would not improve it.

I can think of only two things which I'm really attached to as specific items (as opposed to Useful Things I like to have access to use, but which are replaceable.)

1. My pocket knife. A Christmas gift from my German grandmother when I was 11. The Christmas I was 10, she sent me and my mother leather purses, and my dad and my brother Swiss Army knives. I liked the purse, and used it for special occasions for over 20 years - but I really envied the pocket knives. My father passed this on to her, and the next year, I had a knife of my own. It still lives on my key-chain. I recently had to reattach the red plastic sections, as the plastic had crumbled around the part where it was attached. Crazy Glue is wonderful stuff.

2. My English yew hair fork. I was initially hesitant to order this, as my hair is long, thick and heavy, and I wasn't sure that the design I liked (the "Lil' Egypt" by Martha Baerries) would work for me. I e-mailed back and forth with Martha several times before ordering the fork, and when I ordered, she surprised me with a new design intended to have more room to hold the hair. The design is now sold as the "Ursula" fork - but I have the original!

#126 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2008, 10:13 PM:

I'm definitely a "thing person". For example, I'd have to go look to be sure how many sets of dishes I have. I am clear on how many houses though — just the one.
As I read the posts and thought about this, no particular thing jumped out at me as irreplaceable as long as the credit card holds up. The books that are out of print would be a challenge, and with 15 bookcases full, there must be quite a few of them. While there are many splendid books out there, I do like to go back and read a series from the beginning from time to time, and that's difficult unless you've held onto them. There was an essay by Brian Doyle on the lust for books in the Oregonian today that I quite like: The Beauty of the Book

#127 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2008, 10:56 PM:

Ursula L, #125, my hands shake these days and I was ending up with Krazy Glue on me and everything until I found this Krazy Glue pen. You have to press down to let the glue out and when you let up, the whateverthatis comes back out to keep the glue fresh. Geez, I sound like a commercial. I'll just go ahead and find it.

#128 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2008, 01:34 AM:

janetl, one niggly problem with Brian's essay: surely they'd never put a daguerreotype into a book? They're not very physically compatible, and aren't duplicatable — you'd have to take a new one for every copy of the book.

#129 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2008, 07:26 AM:

124: be aware that coat-hangers are just the larval stage... left alone in a dark, cool environment for a few years, they metamorphose into Piers Anthony novels. ("Where the hell did that come from? Because I certainly never bought it...")

#130 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2008, 10:23 AM:

The chef's knife that my grandfather used. He taught me to cook, and to use a knife properly and safely. I use it whenever I cook--it's an excellent, plain, carbon steel chef's knife.

#131 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2008, 11:59 AM:

ajay #129:

There must be some connection between my coat hanger-less state and the fact I've never bought a Piers Anthony novel since _Macroscope_.

#132 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2008, 02:12 PM:

I have way too much stuff, but short of a small fire or a shipping/storage mishap there's little chance it'll go away anytime soon. Anytime I open one of the old boxes downstairs (some have not been opened in years...) I get lost in memories, and it takes ages to go through even one box. Usually I end up just putting it all back in the box and re-closing it. I have not yet found a good way to record those memories, or create any sort of shorthand way to recall them - generally they are lost unless I find the particular object/letter/etc. again. Some kind of defect of memory, I think.

That said, if I don't know what is in a box, if it went away I'd never miss it - due to that aforementioned defect of memory. There are only a few boxes that I tend to dig into on a semi-regular basis, as they form a sort of "distributed odds and ends bin" for all sorts of periodically useful but otherwise space-filling widgets and widget bits.

Probably the things I am currently most attached to are my SwissTool (Swiss Army Leatherman competitor), my little keychain Swiss Army knife (needs a new pen insert), the little leather bag that holds change and other odds and ends, my wedding band, and my watch. All, however, could be replaced relatively easily except the watch, and that only because of the expense (Omega self-winders are not cheap, but are very satisfyingly analog and tick-tick-ticky, and you don't have to worry about remembering to wind it).

The thing I used to be most attached to was my old '79 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ-40. I hung onto its carcass long after I knew I'd likely never have the resources to make it whole again. (Never take apart a driveable vehicle you want to keep unless you already have 2x the cash and time you think it'll take to fix it properly.) I sold it 3 or so years ago - one of the hardest things I've ever done - but the buyer took *everything*, even the rusty bent wheels that were no good for anything but I'd hoped to make a coffee table out of (still have the glass top...) Giving up on that dream was very hard - but it was literally getting in the way of other dreams. I have a family now, and I cherish them more than any truck.

Some days I wish all my stuff would just go up in smoke, so I could start over and get real things with real value. Hand-made, durable things. Things with a history. Things that are basic and hard to break and useful and inherently beautiful because they have everything they need to work, but nothing that serves no purpose.

Any sort of re-do will have to wait, though, until we move. The house we're in now - though it is a neat 20's place with lots of nice dark wood - just isn't laid out right or big enough for the family. That and I *need* an additional detached garage if I'm going to have any hope of getting back into my vehicular obsessionhobby. My wife needs her craft space, my daughter needs her running-around space, my MIL needs her own space, etc. And we need room for all our stuff. We're all packrats...

Oh, I'd probably grab the cast-iron "corncob" shape cornbread mold. I believe it was my maternal Grandmother's, and it hangs on the wall sticky from being over-oiled and thus gathering dust, but at least not gathering rust.

#133 ::: Leva Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2008, 04:12 PM:

A string of red plastic beads, that was my grandmother's. She had much fine jewelry but for even the fanciest gatherings, she always wore those beads.

A (color!) print from a slide of my grandmother, taken in the 1930's. She and my grandfather were sharecroppers, and she's wearing a flower sack dress and standing in the doorway of a barn. It's my reminder that no matter how hard things are, you can always make a better life for yourself and succeed at your dreams.

The best pair of miniature hoof nippers ever. I found them at an antique store mixed in with some carpentry tools, and they could be anything from five years to a century old ... I have no earthly idea. There's no maker's mark and I've never seen another pair like them, but they're the best thing ever for trimming goat hooves and I would cry if I ever lost them.

My Minolta 102 camera. I've had it since I was twelve. I use a digital camera now, because they've stopped making the better 35mm films, but I miss the heft and weight of that old beast of a camera. New cameras don't weigh enough, and they're too plastic.

#134 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2008, 05:07 PM:

I am a thing person, and I have so many things I would be hard put to say that this one was my favorite. Also, I have become resigned to the fact that things break, things are scratched, things are broken, things are lost. I cannot depend on my things to be with me forever. (Nor people, nor even myself. All withers, all turns to dust.)

Right now, I would hate to lose my rosary beads. I have several sets: my grandmother's crystal and silver ones, the string and glow-in-the-dark plastic set from my beloved neighbor, the hematite set that I bought to replace the last when I lost it (for several years), which was restrung by my ex-boyfriend's pagan friend, because the chains kept breaking on me when I slept with them.

I am fascinated that the word "bead" comes from "bede" which is the word for prayer, and that St. Bede's day is my birthday.

(The cats and the people are of course, more valuable.)

#135 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2008, 02:03 AM:

This thread has made me think hard about my favorite things, very few of which I still have. If 3 moves = 1 fire, then 1 exile from family, never to return, = 2 fires. I lost all my books, most of my photographs, and all my early possessions when I exiled myself from my family in my mid-20s. Since then I've been reluctant to attach myself to possessions too much.

Still, tools are the things that come closest to being extensions of ourselves, and there are some tools that I wouldn't leave behind for a fire. There's my laptop, second in its line (the first lasted for 8 years, and I'm hoping for similar longevity for this one). The laptop is my notebook, sketchbook, photograph and music store (as backup to my iPod for some things), and my window on the network world.

Then there's my digital camera. It's not yet as much a part of me as my old Nikon F film camera was, but you have to remember I bought the film camera in 1967 and it was pretty much my only camera for the next 35 years or so. So it wasn't much of a decision as to what digital to buy when it came time: a Nikon D70.

There are a lot of books I'm attached to because I like to read and re-read them, or because they remind me of someone or somewhere, but two in particular I've kept around for a long time. One is the Complete Works of Maurits C. Escher, whose work I have loved since I first saw one reproduced in Martin Gardner's column in Scientific American in 1965. The other is a signed copy of Iberall's A General Science of Viable Systems which came from the library of the Chairman of the Physiology Department of the UC Davis Medical School, where I worked for 4 years. The Chairman died shortly after I was hired there, and his library was given to those who knew him and desired the books; I keep it in memory of him and of the rather convoluted path of study it sent me down for the next 30 years or so.

#136 ::: Tlönista ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2008, 03:22 AM:

It's too hard to rank, but here's a few objects that have come to mind:

My black 14-eye Doc Martens, probably the most expensive footwear I own (er...£40...), and by far the most durable and comfortable.

My iBook G4. Beautiful and just the right size...Apple doesn't make computers smaller than 13" now.

My mass market paperback copy of American Gods, which I took tree-planting -- crumpled, waterlogged, mud-splattered, held together with duct tape. Someone has stepped on it with a muddy workboot around halfway through. I lent it to a girl who read the first chapter and offered to buy it off me for $10, but as it was my only copy I had to turn it down.

A pendant that was a Bas Mitzvah present -- a glass cylinder capped with silver metal, containing a roll of paper with the Shema on it in tiny writing. I don't wear any of my other jewelry, generally.

#137 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2008, 04:51 AM:

131: well, yes. You have to have unwanted Piers Anthony novels to get coathangers, just like you have to have chickens to get eggs. See, it's all just part of the Great Cycle of Life.

Also explains why charity shops, like the one I worked in for a few months, are always cluttered with heaps of yellowing Piers Anthony novels and topologically complex piles of surplus coathangers.

#138 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2008, 08:50 AM:

ajay @ 129: Hm. This might explain my parental household library/laundry issues. I don't have any PA -- wait! I lie; I bought the omnibus edition of the first three (the original "trilogy", as you know, Bob) for my son. I actually tried re-reading them. Yikes.

Prior to that PA purchase, we had been lacking in hangers. Now we seem to find more every time we look into a closet or open a storage box. This explains much.

#139 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2008, 10:42 AM:

If Piers Anthony novels turn into coathangers, what do John Norman novels turn into? Votive candles?

#140 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2008, 11:15 AM:

Musical sidenote: if your only experience of the song that gives this thread its title is those wretched children shrilling it (an insult to music that always makes me cringe), try to seek out a version by a female jazz singer with a wide range (I've got one, but don't have time this morning to look up who it is. Maybe Cassandra Wilson.) The melody is absolutely gorgeous! Lyrics aren't bad either, for the most part.

The semi-tangible thing that's music -- LPs, CDs, etc. -- and intangible memories of hearing it in many forms, over many years, are a special kind of favorite for me, even though I can't read the transcriptions.

#141 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2008, 11:29 AM:

139: Piers Anthony novels lay coathangers, which then metamorphose into more Piers Anthony novels. It's an essential piece of adaptation to a hostile environment. In the same way, nobody actually wants, say, a tulip bulb - it's neither useful, edible or ornamental - but we value them because they give rise to tulips.

I don't actually know what the other stages in the life cycle of a John Norman novel are. I will obtain a few, tell them in a forceful, authoritative, masculine voice to breed, and then wait and see what turns up.

#142 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2008, 12:22 PM:

re: title: I like the John Valby version. However, please note I have a sick sense of humour, and really like dirty - even offensively dirty - jokes, provided they're funny, and don't rely on "heh heh he said Fck" (so ADC and his ilk are Right Out). John Valby performs as Dr. Dirty. Some of his jokes are even over my line (most aren't - he's smart, and witty, as well as so vulgar that when he recites the Ballad of Eskimo Nell, nobody even blinks). So investigate At Your Own Risk.

#143 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2008, 02:17 PM:

Late roses and shiny things at my live journal; in the background of the first phot, the orchard and some oak trees.

I should also add a picture of my new keyboard, a nice little Apple wireless with no intrusive numeric keypad and nothing to bump the mouse into. Of course it's so tiny and light that I've needed to stick it down with earthquake wax so it doesn't get swept from the table by a badly aimed melodramatic gesture, but earthquake wax is also, without question, one of my most favorite things of all.

#144 ::: JM ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2008, 02:15 PM:

The Piers Anthony/coat hangers life cycle explains so much! We were chronically short of hangers until, suddenly, we had scads of them -- right about the time my pack-rat mate brought all his old PA books from his parents' home. He doesn't even like PA, last I checked, and I'd rather be short of hangers than waste bookcase space that way, but what's a girlfriend to do?

For my possessions, though I am coming very late to the party:
Susie Kitty, who is pink, contains a music box that used to play "It's a Small World," and was given to me by my grandma on my second day of life. I'm 27 and my arms still form her shape when I sleep, no matter where I've stowed her.

A box that my sister decoupaged with family photos, filled with years of cards and letters.

My other sister's battered copy of Rilla of Ingleside, with an inscription beginning "Happy Confirmation! My favorite is now yours."

A blanket my other grandma made, knit double-stranded in pink and white on needles the size of broomsticks, and far softer than any 20-year-old acrylic piece has any right to be.

If there were a fire, though, I have an awful feeling that I'd think only of my laptop, and perhaps the Dr. Who scarf I worked on for months (ripping out 20 feet of garter stitch leaves a real impression!).

#145 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2008, 11:17 AM:

If Piers Anthony novels turn into coathangers, what do John Norman novels turn into?

John Norman novels don't turn into anything. Oho, no: you don't get rid of them that easily!

#146 ::: P J Evans sees more spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2008, 11:46 AM:

persistent, aren't they?

#147 ::: P J Evans see spam ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 10:10 PM:

(it's broken, at least)

#148 ::: Xopher sees SPAM probe ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 10:11 PM:

Blatant, too.

#149 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2011, 10:26 PM:

Hmpf. There've been a lot of spam probes lately.

#151 ::: TexAnne sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2011, 08:02 PM:


#152 ::: Xopher HalfTongue sees stupid spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2011, 11:22 PM:

Spam spam spam

#153 ::: SamChevreSees More Spam ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2011, 08:17 AM:

Spam spotted.

#154 ::: joann still sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2011, 11:24 AM:

Still there, if lacking a payload, at 162.

#155 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2011, 01:38 PM:

joann @164:

I find it very difficult not to get irate and rather snippy when people post the sort of thing you did just there.

The moderators of Making Light are pretty busy people, and sometimes it takes more than 3 hours and 14 minutes for one of us to have a few minutes to clean things up. Sometimes it takes more than 5 hours, even! Feeling like the community is standing around, tapping its collective watch for something we do as a hobby is...dispiriting.

At the moment, I'm head spam-zapper. But I'm also working pretty damn hard at the moment (it's 6:30pm where I am and I'm still in the office. I'll get very little time with my kids tonight). So sometimes, you know, service is a little slow. Feel free to take it out of my tip.

Yes, I failed at avoiding irritation and snippiness. Happens.

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