The Meaning of Things

27 Oct

As part of my preparation for prelims this week, I have been reading a lot of work on material culture.  I have read about changing habits of cleanliness, the construction of female lineage through the gifting of cupboards and linens, and the development of the European taste for sugar.  As a result of this reading, I started thinking about what things in my house a historian of material culture could use to reconstruct my life and what these items might say about me.  I also thought about those items that had particular meaning for me but whose meaning prove elusive for others.

Here’s a partial list of the things that stick out in mind:

— the letter “K” cake topper from my wedding

— the crystal bowl from Tiffany’s that I received as a wedding gift from Teresa Heinz Kerry (long story)

— my American Girl doll

— a clown stuffed animal from my childhood

— our china cabinet

— my stand mixer

— my cupcake stand

— a seed bead necklace from my aunt

— a reindeer stuffed animal my Uncle Chris gave me

— the bamboo plants we gave as wedding favors

— the green paint I insisted painting our walls

— the teapot I painted at the pottery store


3 Responses to “The Meaning of Things”

  1. Aaron R. October 27, 2010 at 6:09 am #

    The uncannily phallic-shaped stone a group of Young Men gave me when was released (inapprorpiate??).

    The nail from the railroad leading into Auschwitz.

    Interesting thoughts.

  2. ep October 27, 2010 at 6:03 pm #

    This is my favorite (especially the Kerry crystal bowl–details, please?). Thanks, Amanda.

  3. amanda5245 October 27, 2010 at 10:03 pm #

    Aaron – Perhaps slightly inappropriate… on their part. They should look at gifts and realize what they are shaped like. Hilarious, though. Cool on the nail from Auschwitz.

    Liz – Ha! It’s a long story, but I’ll tell it anyway. When my husband was student body president at our small liberal arts college, he invited Teresa Heinz Kerry to be our graduation speaker. She accepted. We got to eat dinner with her. At graduation a few days later, Jordan and I both won awards — I got the fantastic new alumni award and he got an award. I can’t remember what. She began her speech with congratulations to the happy couple and a joke about what our kids would be like (she knew we were dating and thought we were engaged). There were murmurs in the audience. No one knew we were engaged because we weren’t. When we got married a few years later, we sent her a wedding invite. A crystal bowl from Tiffany’s with a note from her appeared at our door some time later. The note was really generic, leading me to believe that a staff member wrote it and that she may not remember us. But, it’s a good story anyway.

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