Having possessions or being possessed by them…

The @Post40Bloggers prompt this week is about possessions and a memory from my English Language GCE hit me in the face because the question asked about a favourite possession and why.

I was 15 and desperate to be seen as part of a crowd – we wore our hair long and tangled, wisps of barely there cotton served as blouses, “love beads” around our necks (I came out in a terrible rash because I’m allergic to nickel), a pair of jeans (or loons) with bleach splashes down the lower part of the legs (at the back if you were really cool) and we teamed them all with a peace and love attitude that was fuelled by joints and a kind of laziness.

The jeans, which I declared were my most prized possession, finished off the outfit but in a way they set the tone for my fashion style and 43 years later I’m still wearing them in one way or another. They gave me the key to be a part of group that I thought I needed to be part of. They had to validate my existence for me because my Catholic education had declared that, as a girl, I was invalid unless I chose to marry and procreate or become a nun.

When we are young we need to be seen to fit in with a crowd; it helps us to form ourselves and our opinions, we learn how we want to be, we learn how we don’t want to be and, as time goes by, we gather around us the possessions that remind us of the way we were shaped.

I decided in my early teens that all I was ever going to be was me and that if anybody didn’t like it then I wasn’t going to lose any sleep over it. I’ve always chosen food because of the way it tastes not because of the chef or brand behind it and drinks because of the way they taste. I buy clothes that fit both my body and style and my style has changed little over the years – checked shirts, jeans, Merrells.

I have a love affair with certain products beginning with an “i” but if I didn’t have them then I’d still get my eight hours a night. I love my cameras – three at the last count – and I have a double cupboard almost filled with baking tins and other kinds of baking equipment. My television is tiny and sometimes it seems too big for me. When it comes down to it they’re all just things and I could live quite easily without them though life without a camera would be hard for reasons I’m not going to go into.

I have a book that my brother gave me the Christmas before he died in which he wrote a short message and a dangling light catcher that my dad gave me the Christmas before he died but still, I wouldn’t take them with me if I was fleeing a fire. That sounds terribly cold hearted but let me explain.

The book and the dangly thing aren’t my brother or my dad and they aren’t the memories of them. I can never forget the sight of my two year old brother, all blonde curls and innocent face, stretching out a worm to show my mum and my aunt and them screaming half in fear, half in disgust. I can’t forget my dad wearing two shirts as soon as it  hit the end of September because he felt the cold really badly and how it earned him the family nickname of “Teddy Two Shirts”. Possessions aren’t my memories.

If a fire started then there are three rats, three cats and a dog to get out of the flames and I wouldn’t go back for anything else. Not the book signed by my brother or the dangly ornament that is all that is left of my dad. I wouldn’t stop to pick up my framed photo of Kafka (hot bloke he was!) and, much as I treasure them, I wouldn’t stop to pick up the signed editions of Dave Hutchinson’s books

Most of our homes are filled with wants and desires. Take away the wants, the desires, the labels, the brands and see what basics are left – those are our needs and anything else is mere window dressing.