unintentional touchstones

Certain objects become touchstones of our younger years. Perhaps it’s a small statue or a wall hanging that has come to symbolize childhood for you in some way. I wonder why some objects take on a special meaning and other objects do not carry any particular significance in our memories. The objects that have a sentimental value for me seem rather random and are perhaps significant only for their familiarity. Yet, for some reason, they stood apart from other things in my childhood surroundings. Some day I imagine my children will recollect with fondness a household item I never considered noteworthy.

I possess a few touchstones of my childhood: an old chair, a clock, a bell on a leather cord…

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Some touchstones of my childhood have been lost or destroyed: a wooden squirrel with a chipped foot, a painting of two owls, a victrola, an old washstand…

A year ago, I found a replacement of my old white onyx elephant: an exact replica of my elephant as a child. This elephant was made in Pakistan. In a sense, this elephant IS my elephant. I’ve chosen to consider it so.

onyx elephant

These seemingly random attachments to objects formed when I was quite young. Recently, it occurred to me that my children are the age I was when certain objects found personal meaning for me. That is, my children’s sentimental touchstones of childhood will derive from our somewhat unintentional hodgepodge of items in our home. What are they seeing? Perhaps I should have planned this better, but I doubt many people do. My children will undoubtedly recollect with fondness an item I never considered noteworthy.

So I asked them if there were any objects in the house for which they feel a particular fondness. They looked at me with an odd look (nothing new), then both mentioned the bear photo. It’s a photo that belonged to my husband Orchid before we met. To them, the bear photo has always been there.

Perhaps that is the meaning behind touchstones. For the child, they are not random at all. They are symbols of continuity and orient them to their world. What does a home have within it? In my case, it has bells, elephants, and wooden things. When I lose my elephant, I need another. For my children, home has a bear photo in it.

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