Grizzly bear: Our Time of Gifts week 32

Samantha Barnes grizzly bear
Grizzly Bear, by Samantha Barnes

Over Christmas, I wrote a post about how we’ve scaled back our living expenses. About how I don’t really feel defined by the things I buy any more; at least, not in the way I used to.

But the other night, at a National Theatre performance by Daniel Kitson, the comedian was talking about all the personal stuff he surrounds himself with. He described his house as “the lunatic asylum of my life”, with walls plastered in objects and pictures from his past. He said that looking at all these things “felt like remembering who I’d been, and realising who I was.”

And I know what he means. All the photographs and images that we’ve chosen to hang on our walls; all the pieces of furniture, whether functional or decorative; even the most banal, unlikely of objects, somehow become a part of us, if they’re around us for long enough.

And these items – the wallpaper of our lives – can be pretty difficult to say goodbye to.

carseatcrop A couple of years ago, I tried to get rid of an old car seat that we’d used when Austin was a baby. It had been passed on to us by relatives, and was never involved in an accident, but I wanted to get a new one for Gwen. It took up loads of storage space; it had to go.

I decided to put it out on the street in case anyone wanted it. I placed it carefully on the front wall, took one long, last look….

And then picked it up, and bolted indoors, with tears in my eyes.

I couldn’t bear to give away the car seat that we’d used to take home our first born child.

I’m even worse with pictures. As well as making several back-up copies of each snap, I’ve also been printing out all the images we’ve taken since the children were born. There are hundreds and hundreds of the things, not even in albums (I don’t have the time to organise them at the moment), but in shoeboxes, under the eaves in the loft.

And all over our walls, of course. Alongside the pictures that D and I have bought over the years, which have followed us round from home to home, and settled with us here, in our little patch of South London.

The grizzly bear fishing for salmon, and the snow-bound forest, both bought by us respectively from the Natural History Museum Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition, just before we got together. The print I bought at All Tomorrow’s Parties, the first music festival we went to as a couple. The paper-cut picture of children with their parents in a forest, which D bought from Paper Moon as my Christmas present this year.

And, the other day, the lovely Samantha Barnes sent us a picture of another grizzly bear, which will be hung in Austin’s room. Bears have a big significance for us (in fact it’s Austin’s nickname), so no doubt this picture will soon become part of our family wallpaper, just like all the rest.

So maybe, in my Christmas post, I didn’t get it quite right. Perhaps the object we choose to have in our homes and our lives, do define us as people. They’re the physical reminders of times past. Of hopes realised or discarded. Of ideas and dreams that may still one day come to pass.

This week, on Our Time of Gifts, I ordered some photos of the children, to be sent to my Grandma, who’s almost 90. She’s long since instructed us not to buy any ornaments or other clutter for her flat; she has enough, and is done with furnishing her surroundings. But I thought it might be nice, as she lives at the other end of the country, for her to have some pictures of the little ones who are in her life, so she can (if she so chooses) pepper her home with their smiles.

Disclosure: Sanantha Barnes sent us the grizzly bear print for free. But we paid for everything else mentioned in this post, and, as always, my views are my own.

This post is part of Our Time of Gifts, my year-long adventure in sharing. Each week, I’ll loan or giving something away, then see what the universe brings to my doorstep.

Click here to find out more about Our Time of Gifts.

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19 thoughts on “Grizzly bear: Our Time of Gifts week 32

  1. Absolutely! You go into a lot of new houses when you have little ones, & it always makes me feel a bit uncomfortable when they are minimalist or adorned by a few tasteful IKEA prints (much as I otherwise love IKEA), & you’re a bit terrified of moving & making the place look untidy. When you admire a new friend’s picture and they smile and tell you a story, that’s when my guard comes down.

    Wonderful, feel-good post. (I hope the car seat went to a very happy home, although I’m sure noone looked as sweet in it as Austin!).
    Mumbling Wildly recently posted…The day I met Barbara Castle: Inspiring Women for International Women’s DayMy Profile

    1. Thank you! I do think he looks very sweet in the car seat, but when I was looking back at these pictures, I also found it difficult to recognise him…weird!

    1. It’s funny, isn’t it? Out of all the things I’ve become attached to, the car seat is one of the strangest!

  2. As we prepare to move back to our other house we are shedding some of our old furniture (I am planning to try and gift some of it to FURNISH by the way – inspired by your year of good deeds :-). One of the things we plan to buy new is a kitchen table. The old one owes us nothing, it’s seen better days, but I do feel sad to say goodbye. My Mum and I assembled it ourselves, never having attempted flat packed before and we sprayed the chairs bright colours. I remember it well as it was after a very difficult time in my life and the satisfaction of building it and customising it felt good. If tables could talk, ours would have a lot to say, it’s been privy to alot of good times. It’s time for a new one but I will mourn the old one and the memories I have of it.

    Like you, I am sentimental about pictures and photos. Each year I make Pip’s Great Grandma (91) a photo calendar of him and EB for Xmas. She loves it. A photo or a picture or sometimes even just a letter in the post for older people can really make the difference to their day. Lovely post as ever.

  3. I think that all of these decorative objects or even items we have collected over the years, hold so many memories, it’s difficult to say goodbye to them. Some of ours I don’t even like any more but i would rather have the cluttering up a cupboard, than get rid of them altogether – sentimental old fools aren’t we?!
    suzanne3childrenandit recently posted…The 6 Phases of Motherhood / Being a ChameleonMy Profile

  4. I dread to think that people think of the state of my mind and my life based on the state of my house…lunatic asylum is most definitely near it! I love the idea of our houses representing the “Wallpaper of our Lives”, but am a bit scared by what that might actually mean if I take a step back and look at the chaos that mine shows 😉
    Helen Neale (@KiddyCharts) recently posted…Tips for managing screen time with your kidsMy Profile

  5. I love this post. My partner doesn’t believe in keeping sentementle pieces although if he did I’d have even more things than I do now and my dining room is bursting at the scenes :/ The things in your house makes a .home
    Grace recently posted…Theo turns 4!!!My Profile

  6. I love the bear – my youngest is a big fan of all things bear! Our house is a little on the minimalist side for me as OH objects to too much ‘stuff’. I came from a home that was stuffed with memories and antiques that go way back so I am used to ‘stuff’ but his parents are very much the tasteful decor type so I am trying to win him over. Realistically we have a very small house with 4 people in it so we are limited slightly! #blogclub
    Rollercoaster Mum recently posted…Silent Sunday #MySundayPhotoMy Profile

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