Thursday, December 31, 2009

the next-big-thing

Twirl, January 2006

Is it odd that during this festive shopping season, when so many search for or hope to receive the perfect new item, I find myself struggling to part with the old?  Isn't it the stereotypical husband who insists on keeping his favorite old sweatshirt and the stereotypical wife who twirls in front of the mirror in her new party dress?  What kind of wife am I anyway?  Sheesh.

I do like to buy or receive something bright and shiny every once in a while.  But more prominent in my life are the few things I already own and hold close to my heart--the things I cannot let go.  Don't get me wrong, I'm quite selective with what I decide is worth keeping.  The space we call home is petite, so what stays must be truly dear.  I'm not a pack rat. I don't have an attic filled with my entire past and although these would serve as completely acceptable items to treasure, I'm not talking about my great grandmother's exquisite wedding dress or the collection of fine china that has traveled continents and been passed down through generations.

No, I refer more to things that figure in to my day-to-day life.  Items such as an extraordinarily comfortable and well-worn (bordering on over-worn) pair of jeans, a cozy sweater that is slowly disintegrating, but still feels warm and beautiful, and my frazzled scarf that I know should be retired. When I wear these things I return to wonderful places in my life.

I bought the jeans right before we got married and wore them with a sexy black halter to meet family and friends for drinks at our favorite neighborhood bar a few days before our wedding.  The sweater?  It was folded up on a table in one of my favorite shops when I saw it, the yarn was a creamy white color.  The cuffs, fabric flanking the zipper, and the interior of the hood, were made of satin and were the same beautiful winter white -- completely impractical.  I tried it on anyway and then had to have it.  My best choices are rarely practical.  As it turns out, it wasn't that impractical.  It's now years later and I'm still wearing it, today as a matter of fact.  I'm not sure what others think when they see me wearing this sweater, but it feels so good against my skin and it's so easy for me to forget it's current state and slip back to feeling as if I just unfolded it and I'm in the shop seeing myself in the mirror, wearing it for the very first time.  The scarf?  Chris gave it to me, just a fun purchase from a chain store.  It is not cashmere.  It is not handmade by anyone near and dear.  It is very special to me.  It did keep me warm through the winter while walking to and from the worst job I ever had and it stayed with me through the cold and frustrating days and nights in my studio as I worked my way through graduate school.

I love these things. Fortunately, I do not to need to save them. I have replaced each and every piece.  Still, I just can't seem to part with them.

Perhaps this connects to a theory of my father's.  He believes there are vast differences between his meeting an individual for the first time as an adult and revisiting a relationship with someone he knew when they were both young.  He feels a certain comfort level and an ability to let his guard down in the revisiting scenario.  He doesn't have the same questions and concerns that he has when meeting someone new because he already has a solid platform from which to begin.  He doesn't need to know everything about the friend he is revisiting.  He believes yes, this person might have accumulated some baggage during their journey, but somehow it is all forgiven because he understands the true essence of this person. He feels he "gets" who they are because he knows who they were before any of these mishaps occurred.

I think I'm a bit more skeptical, or maybe just too curious.  I need to fill in more blanks than Dad deems necessary.  My jeans, sweater, and scarf have been with me all along.  They never ventured off and lived in other closets before coming back to me.  We've been together through thick and thin and we've held close together the entire time.  This might also explain the extent to which I value my marriage.  Chris, I hope you know you are a smidge more valuable than my favorite sweater.  We've built this life together, and a wonderful life it is.  That being said, Dad's theory remains a very interesting concept and I like that it works for him.  It's sort of romantic, isn't it? 

So what am I trying to say here?  As this year winds down and we look back at what is most important in our lives my guess is that the majority of those things, if not all of them, are NOT newly acquired.  Hold on tight to the good stuff.  Appreciate it.  Often the next-big-thing is something we already possess.


  1. Your words are so inspiring and perfectly uplifting. I love that holding on to the good stuff is kept in mind. Aren't all things we do a work in progress anyways? This is my favourite reflection post for sure. Brilliant as always.

  2. Beautifully written! (I wish I had the ability to expres myself as eloquently as you have)
    I say hang onto to those items until you know you are ready to part with them, whenever that may be. And then take a picture of the item because the memories you have are so wonderful and you will want to remember them. Happy New Year :)

  3. beautiful and very wise words - i hope that 2010 fills you with love, peace and happiness.

  4. What a beautiful post, so inspiring. I have been thinking a lot about the happy combination of old and new over the past couple of days. On New Year's Eve, we had a dinner with several of the friends we celebrated the millenium with and others we've known only a few months and how fortunate we are to have friends who are part of the very landscape and fabric of our lives, as well as brand, shiny new ones we've gathered along the way.

  5. Alexandria, Thank you. Yes, I agree with your thoughts of our lives being works in progress. It's comforting to know little adjustments, or grand if need be, are always an option as we weave our way through life.

    Little Byrd, Thank you. Making a photograph is a wonderful way to use memory. Sometimes, for me, it's just the act of making the photograph that holds the memory, even if I don't look at it again. Happy New Year to you too!

    Char, Thank you. I hope you find 2010 to be a year filled with wonderful surprises.

    Licked Spoon, Thank you. It seems you've struck a perfect old + new balance. Happy New Year!

  6. I find it hard to hold on the good stuff sometimes. Not because I am always searching for something new, but because I seem to find it hard to hold on, thats all. I do try.
    This is a beautiful post for the 3rd of January.
    Happy new year to you Denise

  7. Beautiful post - you've captured exactly the words that hadn't even formed yet in my thoughts as I was reflecting on the past year. Hope that you have a wonderful 2010 filled with many more memories to hold onto for years to come...

  8. This is such a lovely post! Inspiring and uplifting, as alexandria put it. I hope you are having a wonderful start to the new year

  9. Well said. This year I will celebrate my four year anniversary with my husband. I can't believe it's been that long, but those years are so special to me. And some of the best gifts I received were really hand-me downs from my aunts and grandma. Sometimes old things are the best things.

  10. Really nice post, Denise! As I'm in the midst of packing up my belongings as we speak, hit home for me...just had a conversation with a close friend yesterday as we were hiking the hills above Fairfax. She was saying how funny it is how much of life is just our habits and our connections to those habits. Then something occurs to give us a bit of perspective (moving, death etc.) and we realize they don't really comprise our identity at all...anyway, long-winded response to say I loved your post, and hearing your dad's perspective too. I agree with him. In reuniting with old friends, there's always an ease in which you slip into (you know their parents, you remember what restaurant they once liked, and how many speeding tickets they had...). Anyway, Happy New Year!

  11. Rachel, Lucky you. No conundrum, no clutter. Perfect! I'm sure you'll hold tight to those things that are really important (your Elizabeth David books?). Happy new year to you!

    Jill, Thank you. Here's wishing you a year filled with fabulous memory making moments.

    Jen, Thank you! I believe your year is getting better already. Enjoy all that you've been missing as you remove each item from those boxes. Happy unpacking!

    Roysie, Thank you. It's good to know your years together have been good. We just celebrated 6 years of marriage. Time does fly. You are a wise woman for appreciating those special family heirloom gifts. I love such items and I love hearing family stories too. I've heard some good ones (sometimes shocking) over the last few years. Keep passing these precious bits of history on.

    Megan, Thank you for your thoughtful note. I just love the conversations that take place during hikes. Your friend's perspective on the connection between our habits and our lives is quite thought provoking. I can seriously branch off that thought in so many directions. I definitely have issues with cultivating habits and feel confined if I'm not constantly switching things up a bit. Hmmm...I wonder what that says about my life. I hope your new year is filled with many hikes and great conversations.

  12. So perfectly put. I do always tend to go chasing after this improbable, unattainable (and often undefined) goal or thing... So thank you for the reminder.


  13. Dear Maria,

    Yes, sometimes it's nice to just sit back and look around, appreciating all that's good in your life. I know you like to move towards your goals, but I'm sure you also have these moments every so often. They are so nice, aren't they?