Infest the Waters: A Blog About Design, Life and Making Stuff


Memory book from Gramma
1975 Zenith Chromacolor II TV

My 1975 Zenith Chromacolor II TV

There are several things I really enjoy doing because of the nostalgic quality of the activity.  They include making cookies using the stand mixer I grew up using to make cookies, making soup in my great-grandmother’s soup pot, sewing on the sewing machine that once belonged to a friend of my grandmother’s and watching movies on the TV I grew up with, a 1975 Zenith that looks like, as my best friend through secondary school described it, “the TV from outer space.”  Mind you, it’s not because of the fact that any of these items–the stand mixer, the soup pot, the sewing machine or the TV–are of exceptionally high quality.  (Although I do think the fact that they are all still around and operating speaks to the fact that they were well-made.)  I enjoy using them purely because their familiarity gives me comfort.

This past weekend, Ben and I spent Saturday night organizing the basement.  Because that what we do.  Our idea of a good time on a Saturday night is assembling shelves, categorizing tools and getting rid of junk that’s been in the basement since the previous owners.  Mind you, we’ve already been through several rounds of divesting the basement of stuff from the previous owners.  I swear this stuff is like sauerkraut in your fridge–it just keeps multiplying.  All kidding aside, though, I really like to organize things and get rid of excess stuff that I don’t need.  It makes me feel lighter, and I get tremendous satisfaction out of being able to find things easily.  In short, I don’t generally hang onto stuff I don’t need.

Except when I do.

And when I do, it’s usually for nostalgic reasons.  And even then, I don’t think I hang onto as much stuff as many people do.  When my mom moved six years ago, I was amazed by how much stuff from my childhood she was hanging onto.  I assume this is partially because she never again wanted to revisit the utter sadness inflicted on her first-born upon learning that her prized sticker collection had been thrown out.  (But thank God she had saved all my seashells!)  I was also amazed by the relatively good condition most of it was in.  I mean, I knew I always took pretty good care of my toys, but you never knew what was going to happen once my sister, Alex the Destroyer, got done with them.  Have you ever seen that scene from Toy Story where they encounter all the mutilated toys at the neighbor’s house?  Well, you get the picture.

But back to my basement.  Aside from the tools and the Christmas decorations and an inordinate number of wooden chests that I’ve been hanging onto for my dad, I have several boxes of items from my childhood that were reclaimed from my mom’s house during the move.  I hadn’t opened them since 2006, and I didn’t label them very well, so I wasn’t sure what I’d find in them.

Tex and Figment Hat

Tex models my stylish Figment hat.

I dug into the first box, which was labeled “300 piece puzzles” and “Figment hat.”  As expected, there were several puzzles that hadn’t actually belonged to me, but had belonged to my sister.  Okay, interesting–not sure why I saved those.  Also as promised, there was my Figment hat from the first trip I took to Disney world.  And then there was one final item, a hipster’s dream–an amazing stonewashed jean purse.  You’d better believe that I’m gonna rock that out at some point–in a totally un-ironic way.

The second box I opened (not labeled) contained a strange collection of various wall-hangings from my childhood, as well as a photo album that belonged to my great-grandmother and….MY PENNY COLLECTION!  Okay, so things were getting more exciting.

Gift of Memories from GrandmaAnd then I opened the third box, which was apparently an ode to the 80s.  But buried beneath Rainbow Brite, Care-a-Lot, a Viewmaster and all my Jem dolls, there were a few books.  As I pulled out the stack, there it was!  I thought I had thrown it away!  It was a book my grandmother had hand-written to me in 1987 all about her life.  When my grandmother passed away in 2007, I searched high and low for this book and couldn’t find it.  With much sadness, I finally concluded that I had gotten rid of it during a previous cleaning rampage.  It seemed weird that I would do that, but I simply could. not. find. it.  I pulled the book out and was awash in emotions.  Joy.  Relief.  Sadness.  Elation.

So that night, after we finished organizing the basement, I curled up with my newfound book and reread it from cover to cover.  I remembered some of it but had forgotten other parts.  And as I read through the book, I felt like, in that moment, my grandmother was still around.  It was a comforting feeling. I thought I had lost her.

It turns out that sometimes saving something for nostalgia’s sake can be reason enough.

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