Our lives are full of objects. When I wake up every morning, I’m staring at my bedside table. On this table I have many important items: a ukulele, a journal, and necklace from my grandmother. These are three artifacts that define me.
For this assignment you must find three objects that are important to you.
Step One: Describe one object in detail.
Ukulele: small, shiny, red, half nylon strings, half plastic, strings, falling over constantly, propped up between a jewelry cup and my journal, tucked away next to the guitar.
Step Two: Try to describe the significance of this object. Remember, the object should serve as a symbol for something in your life. Maybe it relates to a moment of change, a realization, a milestone. Maybe the object describes something about your personality…
This object is important to me for a variety of reasons. It symbolizes love because it was an anniversary present. It also relates to family because both my uncle and sister live in Hawaii. The ukulele represents my creativity as I love to play music and learn new things. It also shows my love of traveling.
Step Three: tell a story that relates to the object, but might not be directly about this object. For my story I’m going to talk about college and the evolution of my relationship with my sister. I’m NOT going to talk about the first time I learned how to play the ukulele or the day I was given it. Your story should be related to your object but not directly about it. Remember the object is a symbol for a larger thing in your life…
Chelsea moved to Hawaii the year I started college. It was hard to lose an older sister to an island halfway across the world, especially at such an influential time in my life. I was growing up and I wanted her to be there for that. We were finally at an age where we could really start getting to know each other as people, not just siblings. She is 8 years older than me and that gap has always served as a road block in our relationship. She was more of a parent to me growing up than a confidant. But now we were older, more able to relate to each others experiences. I was ready for her to give me advice. I was ready to tell her my secrets. I was ready to have one of those sister relationships you see in movies or sitcoms.
I remember our first trip to the island. I was in the midst of High School and Chelsea had just finished college and the trip was meant to be a celebration. I fell in love with Maui the second I stepped off the plane. I guess she did too because a few weeks after we returned she received a call that a school wanted to hire her. I don’t think I even knew she was applying for jobs out there. I knew she was thinking about it, but I didn’t want to believe it was a possibility. My grandmother had died about a year prior to this so our family was trying really hard to hold each other up. How can we hold each other from opposite ends of the world?
On the move in day, I carried a blue throw rug out to the truck with my father. My stepmom, dad, baby brother, and childhood friend would be the ones taking me to school. My mom wasn’t there. My sister wasn’t there. My twin brother was already at his school getting settled. As we drove to Philadelphia I kept remembering being 10 and driving my sister to college. I remember crying on our drive back and imagining a house where she wasn’t in the bedroom across the hall. I remember my mom crying and laughing back at me, saying, “Baby it’s going to be you guys before you know it.” I wished my sister was there to see me in this big city. I wished she was there to unload my boxes and hang posters on the wall. Instead it was my baby brother, ten years younger, acting nervous and trying to carry as much as he could. I couldn’t help but notice how the roles had reversed. How he was so much younger and probably imagining a house where I wasn’t down the hall anymore.
Five years later and I am a college graduate. I am working in an urban school and my sister is prouder of me than anyone. She is a teacher as well and we swap lessons and stories of kids shaving their eyebrows off or getting sick in class from our computers and telephones. I try to visit her every year, but even when that isn’t possible I am assured our relationship will remain strong. The experience taught me that it is possible to maintain a relationship through distance. It also taught me that I am different than all of my siblings. I go home, I make family dinners, I take my baby brother out. I vow that I will be there to move him into his college dorm room. I will pick him up from school on holidays and move him into new apartments. Not out of spite, or anger, but because that is the dynamic of our family. I found my role within our family and that is to try as hard as possible to be the glue that keeps us communicating.
Look! All of that from one object. Try it.