Dora the Explorer and I are great pals. She goes with me everywhere I drive, sitting snugly in the console of my car smiling a steady smile. She’s oblivious to the uneven stitches on her face, her shirt and her arm – first aid I applied after rescuing her from the middle of a busy street. I fear she had had something of an ordeal out there on the roadway, but she’s safe and sound now. In my mind, my “good deed” has transformed an unknown child’s lost doll into a plucky little safe-driving talisman. She has assumed this role because I believe in the power of inanimate objects.
It is something every child understands: things have power. Linus has his blanket, Christopher Robin has Pooh, and my granddaughters have Blue Dog and Pink Bear. These comfort toys are more than soft fabric and cotton stuffing; they have the power to dry tears, banish the dark and create an illusion of constancy in an inconstant world.
Things can also invoke both superstition and hope. I know I can’t resist picking up a penny lying on the sidewalk heads-side up. I keep these pennies in the well of my car door, but I never spend them. The pile of found coins has a reassuring clink when the door slams shut. I have a bracelet, a gift from a friend who assured me that it would protect me – something about the tri-color twist of metals. I wear it – always – when I fly. One can never have too much protection 30,000 feet in the air. Am I superstitious? No matter what you call it, I believe in the power of inanimate objects.
Things have the power to transport us to distant places and happy memories. Just balancing in my hand the tiny bronze dolphin that I bought in a dusty tourist shop in Crete carries me back to sunlit seas and glowing Mediterranean sunsets – and to the real dolphins leaping between the waves. I have a miniature Eiffel Tower on my book shelf which reminds me that I put my claustrophobic fears aside and rode the series of elevators to the top one balmy evening. That bird’s-eye view and my racing heartbeats are captured in a little tourist souvenir. Yes, objects have the power to carry us away like magic carpets.
I am convinced that the stories of families can be told through the heirlooms they pass on, and because I come from a family of collectors, I am linked to my parents and grandparents through cut-glass vases, a well-polished grandfather clock, silver candlesticks, a ceramic bulldog, a strawberry-shaped jam jar, and children’s books. Each has its place in the collective memory I call “family.”
The power in inanimate objects is not imaginary but grounded in the belief that we are somehow defined by our “stuff.” Our special things are reminders of just how animated we are – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Yes, there is inherent power in inanimate objects, and I believe in it.
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