The Stuff & Things Of Life

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This year my desk calendar displays a vintage ad above each monthly grid.  January’s ad is for a Big Ben alarm clock.  The style of the ad is mid-century and the vibe of the ad is cheerful.  I smile when I look at it.

Unlike the nature photo calendars that I’ve had in the past, this one inspires me in a more creative way.  Suddenly I want to paint something– or bake something– or color something, even.  Funny how the imagery on something can influence me in such a way, but it does.

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I’ve always been fascinated by what objects people put around themselves.  I enjoy knowing what stuff a person finds important enough to keep on his or her desk– or on his or her kitchen counter– or in his or her magazine rack.  The little things that make someone smile.  Or be productive.  Or feel safe.

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I stumbled on this article about abandoned suitcases that were found in an old insane asylum.  It’s an interesting read.  The photos of the contents of the suitcases are amazing.  Plus there is documentation to explain who owned the suitcases– and why he or she was institutionalized.

There’s no way of knowing who put the objects into each suitcase.  It might have been the patient or it might have been the person who institutionalized the patient.  Or, I suppose, it might have been the nurse or doctor who came to escort the patient to the asylum.

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Looking around my home office I see the details that make it mine.  Like the calendar that inspires me.  Like the colorful Le Creuset mug that keeps my coffee handy.  Like the books in the old wooden bookcase that ground me.  And I wonder, what would I take with me if I knew I was going to an insane asylum… probably for the rest of my life.

Impossible to know the answer to such a hypothetical question.  Yet interesting to ponder.  On a Saturday morning.

Published by

Ally Bean

Observant. Creative. Humorous. Adaptable. Happy enough. Looking for the crumb of truth in the cookie of life.

12 thoughts on “The Stuff & Things Of Life”

  1. I find the pictures of what someone has in the purse or on their desk or in their fridge interesting. Not that I would ever share picture of my mess. My desk has mostly desky stuff, though, except for the salt and pepper shakers and the moose. And the rocks. But the area around me is badly cluttered with stuff.

    The suitcases make me sad. So many of those people were not “insane” by today’s standards. Many were developmentally disabled or even physically disabled. Some were depressed, some were alcoholics or drugs abusers. But anyone that spent much time in the institution was “crazy” eventually just from the horrible conditions and the treatments used at the time. A friend of mine worked in a state mental hospital in Virginia and even into the 60s and 70s the conditions were just unimaginable.

    I worked in juvenile corrections at the beginning of my career. The place I worked in had been a civil war orphanage and there were records of mothers who had to place some of their children there after their husbands died, of cruel treatment of the children (like kneeling on rice for hours as a punishment) and how the kids were sold into indentured servitude to local farmers. It made you wonder what became of these kids as they grew up.

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    1. Zazzy, the suitcases are a poignant, aren’t they? I was completely taken by each one– wondering about the person’s story, knowing that I’ll never know it. I’m sure that you’re right that not all of these people needed to be in this place. Yet they were. Sadly enough.

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    1. julochka, I know. Having glimpsed into the lives of those who were in the insane asylum, I started looking at my stuff with a different sort of fondness. A kind of objective wonder, I guess.

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  2. That would be fascinating. I need to go over and look at those photos and think about what I would do. I certainly do feel like I’m losing my mind some days.

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    1. Margaret, the article + photos made me think. Not to mention that the stuff and things that these people saved are a look into history. Trippy all the way around.

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  3. I love your calendar too. I love those 1950’s type illustrations and adverts you sometimes see around. So cheerful and optimisic. The world must have seemed very much like that at the time. Lovely article about the suitcases, too. Thanks for sharing that.

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    1. Polly, like you I find those old adverts to be uplifting. The colors call to me, I think. Glad you enjoyed the suitcase article. It captured my heart and imagination.

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