So, I’m going to do this thing. This past year I read The Other Walk by Sven Birkerts, which is a book of random, thoughtful essays. In several of them, he happens upon an object, and he writes about his memories associated with that, and uses it as a tool to probe his inner thought processes. They’re really beautiful and poignant. And he came to visit us at SUNY Brockport, and kind of discussed this process. So I thought, on days that I don’t have something else to write, I’m going to try his process. They won’t wax philosophical as beautifully as Birkerts, but it’s a starting point. And I’ve promised myself to write every. single. day. this .year. He titles them simply, the name of the object that prompted the memory. So, here we are.


This year we stayed overnight at my in-laws on Christmas Eve. I had my reservations. The first is that if you are ever not awake when mother-in-law is awake, she will stomp around and talk about you or she will wake you up and yell at you. Probably both, in that order. She also has trouble sleeping, so that resolves to around 5 hours at most of sleeping time, the last hour of which you will be half awake, but still unconscious, your ears sleepily listening for her murmuring, Xiao Hua, Xiao Hua (That’s the Chinese name she gave me).

The other is that Chinese people believe in Very Hard Beds! I thought that my in laws just “had bad, old beds” in their house, but no! When we visited China I slept in many beds, and they were all varying degrees of stone slab hardness. So, whenever we stay the night, I wake up with random aches and pains. When Charles and I first got married, we lived in their basement for 6 months before we couldn’t take it anymore, and got an apartment. The first thing I made us buy was a brand new bed, that Charles still complains hurts his back because it’s way too soft. Ah well, we both make compromises.

Anyway, there are a few boxes that never made their way to our new apartment. Some of the boxes were transferred from my previous apartment, and had never been opened there. So this Christmas, we were looking for something, and I happened to open one of the boxes.

Sitting at the top was this pillow. This small pillow I always had as a child. I think it’s the oldest token of our family that I own. It’s pretty beat up. It was meant to be a pin cushion. It was hand painted by my great-great-great-something-grandmother, for her daughter on her graduation day in 1850. It was so beautiful and poignant to me that I happened upon this, just months before my graduation, after not having seen it for years. It just, I don’t know, can I read things into things? I’m a poet! Of course I can! It felt like a sign. It was like a warm brush of an ancestor’s hand from ages past, of recognition. I can write so much more about this pillow, but for now, I think, I’ll sign off.

Do you have any moments like this where a memento seemed particular significant to your life? Let me know in the comments.

OH! And I am currently trying to figure out books to read for BookRiot’s Read Harder Challenge. One of the categories is “A Book Recommended by a Friend”– So, friends, any recommendations?

A post shared by Sarah Liu (@araenel) on

A post shared by Sarah Liu (@araenel) on


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