I believe in tchotchke…

Shelley - San Luis Obispo, California
Entered on April 30, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

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.