I spent a night at my son’s before I left for Japan, so he could easily give me a ride to the airport the next morning and use my car while I was gone.
There are so many logistics involved in a one-month trip, and the more stuff you have, the more thinking and planning it takes. My car—much as I need it and love driving—falls under the category of stuff. I couldn’t leave it parked outside my house; it might have been reported as an abandoned vehicle and towed. My first plan was to leave it in my brother’s driveway, but that would have made getting to the airport challenging because he was already transporting my sister-in-law and two nephews and their baggage in his small car. I could have taken an Uber or a taxi from there, but Vince said he’d be happy to use my car, which gets better mileage than his minivan.
I know I’m not alone in struggling between liking my stuff and wanting to heave it all out the window and run away forever.
Yesterday I acquired the ultimate piece of stuff, an antique curio cabinet that has stood in successive generations of my family’s homes, most recently my aunt’s.
Why, oh why, did I take it? It’s a lovely but useless piece; the worst combination of both fragile and heavy. But there’s a strong tug of nostalgic value. I have childhood memories of gingerly opening the glass front and taking out the trinkets my grandmother kept inside. Once a year or so we would do the same at my aunt’s, and she would tell stories about the origins of the cut-glass pickle boat or the bisque Christmas ornament of a roly-poly little man we called Happy Fat.
Molly, my cousin, said she always felt the curio cabinet was a ball and chain. “We could never run around the house without mom yelling, ‘Be careful of the curio cabinet!’”
It’s a symbol to me, this curio cabinet. A symbol of my ties to ancestry and place, but also of being stuck in Minnesota and never being able to escape its gravitational pull. So I’ll try to sell it. Some nice gay couple may want it for their Lalique collection.
I struggled the day before I left. Why was I leaving? It was summer, which is so fleeting and precious in Minnesota! Summer is our reward for getting through the long winters. Why wouldn’t I stay, and spend time with my son’s girls?
Of course I went, and here they are examining the Japanese food items I brought home a month later.
People aren’t stuff. But, like belongings, they make it difficult to run away from home, temporarily or permanently.
I came across this quote from Henry David Thoreau:
There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself….
I’m not sure what it means, or what it means for me, but I do know I’ve got Post-Trip Depression Syndrome (PTDS) and maybe Thoreau—the ultimate case of someone who chucked it all and went to live in the woods—can help.
My travel to Tokyo was completely smooth until I exited Hamamatsucho Station with my suitcase and attempted to find my hotel. I had chosen not to pay for a portable hotspot or data, so I was going off printed directions, which said the hotel was a 10-minute walk from the station. How hard could it be?
An hour later I was trudging down the same tiny alley for the third time, squinting to scry English anywhere but mainly to hold back tears of frustration and anxiety.
I was also hoping a stranger would feel sorry for me and help me find the hotel without me having to ask for help.
Finally I walked a half block farther than the city blocks I’d circled four times. I saw something that looked like a hotel and … it was my hotel. Whew.
Here’s another quote I totally get, from the travel guru Rick Steves.
Fear is for people who don’t get out very much.