Thursday, October 1, 2009


The Husband has been traveling around the world for a good many years, doing some very important work. He’s a certifiable globetrotter. People always ask me—don’t you go on any of these trips? Well, to be quite frank, I have accompanied him a handful of times. But, up until last year, I still had kids at home to look out for. And he pops in and out of some of these countries so quickly there really would be no point for me to tag along. All I’d see would be airplanes and hotel rooms. His traveling came to a screeching halt this last year; the derailed economy has prevented corporations from spending the money.

He’s a photographer and has shot some amazing photos during his trips. And…the best part, he would always bring me presents. The Husband has an eye for items that can’t be found down at the mall. We have a vast collection of masks, textiles, and the list goes on and on. Finally, I had to tell him. No more. Don’t bring any more.

Since we’ve moved to a smaller house, the garage remains chock full of treasures. Plastic tubs sit unpacked. Masks are still wrapped in towels and blankets. For two reasons. Reason number one: I don’t have room for everything. Reason number two: I just don’t have the heart to unpack all that stuff because we’re probably not going to stay in this house all that long, a year—maybe two. This lack of motivation to alter my surroundings is unqualifiedly uncharacteristic. I don’t want to paint. I don’t want to decorate. I don’t have it in me. Why unpack all that stuff, if I’m just going to pack it up again? We won’t want to sell anything yet. Not until we decide where we are going to go to stay for a significant amount of time. Our lives have changed immeasurably in such a short period of time.

I gave birth to my first son at the rip old age of nineteen. I’m fifty-four. I told my husband last night: yesterday afternoon, the strangest feeling came over me. I felt as if I’d forgotten the kids somewhere, that I’d neglected my motherly duties somehow. They’re all adults, off in their own little worlds, but I suddenly felt as if I’d lost them. And, I have in a way. Those kids are gone, replaced with capable adults in charge of their own lives. Just what we intended to happen, right? All these long years, my life has been extremely complicated, jammed full with five kids, and me tearing around like a chicken with her fool head chopped off, tending to their needs and wants and schooling and socializing. Our house was a den of constant activity at all times. Plus, much of the time I was working. Add that into the mix.

Now, The Husband and I work at home. Life is simple. I’m not insinuating that I’m one of those empty nesters, the kind of woman that finds herself lost without her children to define just who she is. In fact, neither my children, nor my husband, have ever been my sole reason for being. I don’t mind admitting, I’m enjoying my newfound freedom, this easy breezy lifestyle. But…I recognize that there's an adjustment to be made, deep in the recesses of my being. I am Mom, I’ll always be Mom, but my role has diminished. I am liberated. But, I need time to know I am.

When I think about it, (and that’s what I’m doing here, thinking out loud), no bloody wonder I don’t want to unpack. We are in the process of undergoing a huge adjustment period. We are in a limbo of sorts. Change is the only constant, after all.

I’ve posted a photo of the garage, (this picture doesn’t convey how much stuff is crammed in there.) And, another of the living room, (See those white walls? How boring!) That’s me taking trying to capture a beautiful ceramic of a woman on an elephant. The Husband bought her in a little shop by a lake, in Beijing, China. Incredible, he wrapped her in a sweater and packed her in his suitcase and she arrived here in the U.S. in perfect condition.

Then, there’s the church. It’s handmade, constructed of clay. This piece is from Lima, Peru, and the shop owner packaged it up and promised The Husband it would arrive in “perfect condition”. It didn’t. It was literally smashed to smithereens. Our entire family marveled as The Husband sat at the kitchen table, hot glue gun in hand, for hours upon hours, miraculously reassembling all the pieces. Amazing! I tell everyone that the little church was damaged in an earthquake. I have a story about the little village. I decorate the church for Christmas, with strings of tiny lights, and an itty-bitty wreath. I even place tiny presents in the hands of the villagers, and at their feet. I love the church, ever more special because he patched it up so carefully.

The tapestry is from New Delhi, India. The Husband found it for sale in an outdoor market. It’s very old. We hung it in the dining room.

What treasures have you accumulated? Or, are you a minimalist?

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.


Kora Bruce said...

ohhh all these treasures are so lovely. and I adore the stories behind them. so sweet.

One day, I hope to have a collection like this. And I my hope for you is to settle down into somwhere comfortable where you can display all your gifts and tell your visitors all the beautiful stories behind them!

Jemi Fraser said...

We don't do a lot of travelling. Our treasures are mostly photos and stuff made by the kids. Or items passed down through the families. Our style is nothing if not eclectic :)

Tabitha Bird said...

I love treasures from around the world. Before we had kids my husband and I lived in two other countries (Hong Kong and USA) before coming back home (Australia). My fav treasures are our hat collection from everywhere we have ever visited. We have a handmade hat from one of the hill tribes in thailand. that's my fav. Husband had to journey by elephant to pick that one up. Other favs include our paintings and drawings from artists we have run into around the world.

lakeviewer said...

You have a major dilemma here. You're in the middle of your life, deciding what is important. I've been there. It will all sort itself out.

p.s. I gave all my stuff to my children and charity. We now live with just the essential items. When I feel nostalgic, I visit my cbildren and my stuff still looking good in their residences. It is well loved; and that is a good feeling.

ellen abbott said...

We have so much stuff and the country house, although bigger by about 500 sq ft, really has smaller living space because we are using the two biggest rooms in the back for studio space. We not bringing all the furniture and I still don't know where it's all going to fit. And the stuff, lots of it is being left behind too but not the art we have collected. Most of it has been packed up for the better part of a year and I am ready to unpack it but we have to get the furniture arranged first.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

Travel treasures? I have 2 leaves from trips to England that I've framed. Small dishes. Books. Pottery. I have got to the point that I keep things that make me smile. If it doesn't it leaves. I think you'll be surprised how little you unpack. Don't unpack anything because you have to, unpack because you want to.


Anonymous said...

I have collected many things traveling. In my earlier years of marriage I bought onto (literally) collecting collections. Now I am downsizing my life and collections. If I could do it all over, I would collect only art that I love. I am adjusting also to most of my children being totally grown and on their own. I loved raising them and want to embrace each season of my life as I know they pass too quickly.

Joanne said...

I could definitely understand not wanting to unpack, only to turn around and pack it up again in no time. It's a lot of work. Maybe take out a few select pieces to make your house home-y? I have a few small collections, a doll collection, record album covers, that sort of thing, of items close to my heart.

Cloudia said...


I'm a minimalist trapped in the body of a collector. Of course on a boat, things can get out of hand...Love The Kwan Yin on elephnt.Wishing you the best!

Aloha, Gal Pal!

Comfort Spiral

Marguerite said...

Wonderful writing and post! I know what you're going through, cher. I've been in limbo for a few years, myself. I got a giant storage unit and stored all of the stuff that used to be in my big two story house in Maryland. Enjoy the freedom!
Your treasures are beautiful and your hubby was so sweet to bring gifts home. Cheers!

Angie Ledbetter said...

Love all your treasures. Hope you get your permanent nest soon so you can feather it right. I've got lots of collections and collectibles in my house (and stored). I'm almost exactly where you are in the life evaluation stage, even down to the traveling husband. My two stepchildren are grown, I've got two in college and my baby's a senior in high school. Wheeeeeeee.

Shirley Wells said...

I can fully understand why you can't bring yourself to paint/unpack. Hopefully, very soon, you'll find yourself living somewhere that's perfect, somewhere that will really be home, where you can display all your gorgeous treasures. I love the idea of your husband fixing the church. Such patience. Thanks for sharing the pictures and the stories.

jinksy said...

Minimalist is not me, unless you are talking Haiku ... They are bout my limit of minimalism. I love the treasure trove oddities that make life interesting, and mean little to other people, but a lot to one's self.

stefanie said...

How sweet that your husband put the church back together for you. We're nearing the empty nest years and I am already feeling some of the emotions you described.

Pop Art Diva said...

Treasures - I recently got back a whole bunch of those and opening the boxes up was like Christmas morning when I was a kid. They were like friends I'd forgotten I had, friends I looked forward to seeing again - old friends who reminded me of good times in the past.

Think of how much fun it will be when you're settled again and you get to open all those lovely boxes full of your treasures!

Helen Ginger said...

If your husband starts traveling again, tell him to send all his "stuff" to me.

It is nice to have things to remember trips by. We have a tapestry from Tangier and little things from Spain, France or England. Most of our traveling has been done in the US though. Most of my favorite reminders are paintings done by various members of my DH's family. We have a whole wall.

And I know exactly what you mean about your kids.

Straight From Hel

Galen Kindley--Author said...

I’ve traveled a good bit, after spending 20-years in the Army…but I have precious little foreign stuff to show for. Not sure how this happened, if it’s because I’m a minimalist, or thoughtless, or, just dumb. Nonetheless, the only way you could tell I’ve been anything other than retired is to look at one wall in our study where various Army artifacts hang…and the majority of them are somehow related to aviation. I’ll just be kind and call myself a minimalist.

Best Regards, Galen

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