This sweater was knit for me by my paternal grandmother, Geraldine. I call her Nana. She is 90 years old, 4’7” inches tall, and she wears a strawberry red wig on special occasions. Her hands are riddled with arthritis and her vision is fading, yet she didn’t drop a single stitch while constructing this garment. She knits while she watches football and baseball and pauses every once in a while to shout at the screen. She’s a Pats and a Sox fan of course. The sweater is made from muted green acrylic yarn. Both the front and back are cabled. It still smells like her rose perfume. When I put the sweater on it looks like I forgot to take the hanger out because the shoulders come to a point. This must have something to do with the way she seamed it, and maybe something to do with the fact that my shoulders are narrow. And so, I don’t wear it. I have written about my effort to purge (donate or sell) the things I don’t use. The thought of squirreling my belongings away and having them fall into “dormancy” makes me feel sad and a little anxious. Ideally, I want to adore the things I keep and use them for their intended purpose. In most cases, I’m ruthless about donating garments I know I won’t wear because I would rather these items recirculate so that someone else who might love them better can find them. And I can imagine that there is someone out there with broad and pointy shoulders who would look fantastic in this moss green cardigan. But my Nana knit it for me. And she didn’t drop a single stitch. So I keep it.
The finish line of my studies is in sight. For my thesis, I have been exploring issues of object attachment as they relate to the ways we consume and discard. It seems that at every turn, we are met with proof of the impermanence of things. Seasons change, landscapes shift, artifacts materialize and decay, and vibrant life grows, withers, then eventually expires. Psychologists, sociologists, cognitive scientists, theologians, and philosophers have long studied the ways in which our perception of this constant flux governs our behavior for better or worse. Because of the nature of the impermanent world around us, we form emotional attachments to people, places, and things. In many ways, attachment demonstrates one’s ability to recognize the preciousness, uniqueness, or thisness of entities. The bonds we form render us better caregivers and stewards of our surroundings and influence how we place value. We celebrate birth, admire growth, and commemorate transitions. But our attachments may also lead us to fear loss and death. Cases can be made for positioning oneself at either end of a spectrum of emotional attachment. Most of us experience tides of attachment and detachment throughout the course of our lives. Equipped with the ability to feel both in the face of impermanence, we can navigate complex human experiences. If we can examine the ways in which we form attachments, we may better understand how to use objects to remind ourselves of what is most meaningful and highlight the exquisitely beautiful and painful instances of life.
This is a call for submissions. I am collecting the stories of stuff. Please email me a description of any item you might feel inspired to write about. Describe one possession you feel attached to. It may be something you use everyday, or it may be void of utilitarian or aesthetic value to you, yet something prevents you from letting it go. It could be an item reminds you of a loved one or a love lost. Or maybe the initial cost of acquiring the item was too great to part with it. Perhaps it’s something you save ‘just in case’ you find a need for it in the future. Tell me the biography of this object you keep and describe your relationship to it. I will share your stories on this blog. I am curious to see what discoveries might come of lining these objects of attachment up next to each other.