Mom and Dad both have pack-rat tendencies. My dad is a pilot, and with two daughters and a wife to come home to, finding international figurines, candles and t-shirts to give us, was part of his job description. The mementos have accumulated in each of our bedrooms and look down on us in the family room. While I always shallowly appreciated my dad’s gestures, I secretly despised the clutter that surrounded me. It was impossible for me to achieve a shabby chic bedroom with a Chinese name banner draping my wall, and I was tempted to toss my souvenirs into a Goodwill donation bag before my parents noticed.
Mom is a fan of porcelain Lladros. Lladros and vases. Each fragile piece is individually beautiful. However, when a row of vases blocks the view of a second row, and one Lladro boy’s ski is colliding with a Lladro dog’s beach ball, the beauty is lost. Each Sunday, my sister and I were assigned house chores; I always got stuck dusting the knickknacks. I hate dusting. Those little faces with their rosy cheeks would smile up at me with taunting eyes. With each face, my grip would tighten around the shaft of the duster a bit more. I imagined gently inching vases over the shelf ledge as I meticulously wiped each crystal crevice. As far as I knew, my mom and those breakables were out to make my life dreadful.
Maybe my mom learned her accumulation ways from her mother. While I never saw much of my grandmother’s home, I would often get packages filled with different items she thought I may like. Too much thought couldn’t have gone into her selection process: a Hanukkah-themed Christmas ornament, a fluorescent broach, socks covered in taxicabs. Granted, I smiled each time I saw a package from her at the door, but, the smile slowly shrunk as I searched for a spot in my room to store its contents.
I no longer live in my childhood home and my grandma has passed away. When I moved for college, I left all of my personal trinkets behind. I have finally obtained the chic bedroom. The only thing I need to dust is my living room television, and no figurines jeer at me from across the room. I don’t get packages stuffed with jewelry or collectable stamps. And I miss it. I miss it all.
When I was surrounded by tchotchke, I felt cramped. I now feel bare. I used to have the chance to ask for my family’s stories and emotional connections, but never did. My materialism and selfishness forced me to focus on the gaud-awful randomness. But tchotchke isn’t gaud at all. It is a peek into the souls that purchased them. It is a physical form of love and thought, and should be proudly displayed. It took me twenty years to realize the depth it holds, and for that, I hope my children learn sooner.