Organising stuff is one of my favourite pastimes, especially on cold and rainy days. I love boxing things, categorising things, throwing things away. An organised home, an organised mind. This weekend, I treated myself to eight matching storage boxes, three organiser boxes with twenty-ish compartments, and a big pot of rooibos tea, and set to work. As I move houses quite often, I don’t own much and I am very aware of the things I own. I knew, for example, that I owned a pinecone-shaped container full of ‘memorable items’. Over the years, I have collected all kinds of small things that reminded me of happy times (festival bracelets, broken violin strings, film tickets, jewellery, notes from friends, etc.). In this post, I thought I’d share some of the ‘memorable items’ I came across, and the happy, intimate, valuable or beautiful snippets of my life they reminded me of. Enjoy!
A Violin-Shaped Christmas Tree Decoration
When I think about the Christmasses of my childhood, I think of little violins in the tree. Our tree also had balls and lights and one year even fake snow, but none of that was as exciting as the tiny violins I got to put in. When my parents divorced, the violins went with my mum, but I don’t think she ever hung them in the tree again. And I do understand; if you’re not into violins, they are a bit, er, sleazy. But I ám into violins (always have been). So one day I decided to steal one. It’s not even stealing, really. I bet my mum is happy with every violin that magically disappears from the box. I put it in my lime tree, just for today.
A Tiny Origami Turtle From Thailand
Age sixteen, I went on a high school exchange program in Thailand. For one year, I lived in a Thai family and went to a Thai school. Before I had caught up on the language, classes were really, really boring. Luckily, my Thai friends taught me how to fold tiny paper turtles and stars. Turtles are a symbol of longevity in Thailand. To wish someone a long and happy life, the Thai fold hundreds of tiny turtles, put them in a jar, and give them as a present. I folded so many turtles during those endless school hours, I bet even today I could fold one with my eyes closed.
My Kennedymars Medal
The town I grew up in hosts a yearly walking event: the Kennedymars. The concept is very simple: walk 80 kilometers in no more than 20 hours. All walkers start at 10pm, walk through the night, and should be back in town by 6pm the following day. A few years ago, my brother, sister and myself walked together. That is, the first twenty or so kilometers we walked together, and after that we split. Somehow, my body seems to be quite well equipped for walking, and my brother and sister couldn’t keep up with me. Eventually, all three of us made it to the finish line well in time. It was a wonderful thing to do with my siblings, like a shared achievement.
Two Girl Figurines From My Grandmother
My mother’s mother and myself were never very close, but I have only positive memories of her. I visited her every other Sunday until my parents’ divorce. She was a big and warm woman. She had a canary called Piet, and a husband with the same name (she remarried after my grandfather had died). She collected white girl figurines, which she displayed on a glass shelf behind glass doors. After my grandmother passed away almost ten years ago, two of those figurines ended up in my possession. I realised this weekend that I have only three items that are related to my grandmother: those two figurines, and a poetry book she gave me on our birthday. Oúr birthday, because my grandmother and I were born on the same day.
Two Slices of Monkey Brain
For most of my studies (neuroscience), I focused on the human brain. I’ve always been interested in psychiatry, and I tend to believe that such disorders are best studied in people rather than rats or monkeys. During my studies, however, I did have a go at animal and lab work, mostly because I wanted to make sure that those fields weren’t for me. In one of the classes, we were working with a monkey’s cerebellum (the ‘little brain’ that kind of dangles down the back of your brainstem). We never got to see the monkey (the brains had been ‘collected’ some time ago), but we did get to chop his or her brain in ultra thin slices, stain them and look at them through the microscope. It was truly intriguing, but in the end I do prefer working with living and talking human beings.
My Holy Communion Pendant Necklace
I never believed in any God, and neither did my parents. Growing up in a Catholic community, however, my siblings and I were baptised and we did go to church. In the second year of primary school, all baptised children learn about the Catholic traditions and undergo their first Eucharist (or Holy Communion). Not believing in God is no reason not to participate; after all, you may find God later and regret your decision. For children, the Holy Communion is mostly about the party and the gifts. Not that the gifts are very surprising; traditionally, you will get a necklace with a pendant from your godmother, a watch from your godfather, a bible from your grandmother and a bike from your parents. This weekend I came across my pendant necklace, and remembered how my godmother had taken me to the jeweller in town to buy it. She even let me choose the pendant myself! Well, choose from the Holy Communion Selection, that is. I wore that necklace every single day until I was about twelve years old. Recently, my godmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. As I now live far away from my Catholic home town, I sometimes feel I don’t think about her enough. I decided I’ll be wearing my necklace again for I while.
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