The Power of Objects

When objects cease to exist objectively

I just watched “Like Crazy”. Near the beginning, both characters exchange gifts — one, a bracelet with the word “Patience” on it, and the other, a “Book Of Love”.

Isn’t it weird as you grow older how your reactions change? I’m sure I would have watched this as young teenager, and dreamed hopefully that one day my life would be so romantic. Maybe in my early twenties, I would have smiled to myself and thought of my boyfriend at the time. Now, at thirty, there’s a gentle, lulling pain at seeing this. It reminded me of the sincere moments of heartfelt vulnerability I have had in the past with such gifts, and how a gift is never just a gift. A gift becomes a memory.

I’ve kept most tokens of love I’ve received, but I can rarely look at them. The biggest (symbolically, not literally) one of these is a simple silver bracelet, which the one boy I ever truly loved gave me as I broke up with him. We were sitting on a bench in Broad Street, in Reading, England. He handed me the jewellery box and I told him I couldn’t accept it. He insisted. I broke up with him, as he knew I would, and then proceeded to wear that bracelet every day for years afterwards. The only reason I stopped was because the clasp became loose and I became scared that I would lose it altogether. That bracelet is not the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in objective terms, but it is one of the most valuable things I own.

Similarly with him, I gave him an antique copy of the works of Shakespeare that had belonged to my grandparents. I sent it in the post to him, while we were living in different towns. I also included a pair of golden socks that he liked to borrow from me. I don’t know how, but those golden socks and that book became his favourite gifts from me.

Since returning home, I have also rediscovered a beloved, and very large, dictionary. I went through a phase where I loved to collect old dictionaries. This particular one is where the collection stopped. I am so happy that it still exists, but have not even picked it up, knowing that again, it exists to me beyond a mere object. With the same boy, we would often wile away afternoons writing our own descriptions beside words, full of inside jokes. I know which words I could look up in that dictionary which would instantly transport me back to the tiny attic room I rented on Southampton Street. I would remember his dry laugh and dark sense of humour. I would remember giggling and telling him to stop being weird, and then kissing him.

There are some gifts which I remember making which I am only glad I don’t have to see again. I remember giving a leather bound journal to a German boy I dated, who was obsessed with technology. I enclosed a little poem in it, which started with “To an Apple boy from a paper girl”. Later in that relationship, I would make him a scavenger hunt in his apartment, with a first edition book I had bought a year earlier, the German version of “The Old Curiosity Shop”. I turned it into a keepsafe, with cut out pages. On the day of the scavenger hunt, he texted me to ask me to just tell him what the final clue was. He “didn’t have the time” to complete the hunt. I am so glad I never have to see that book again because even the thought of its existence is a painful one, like a burn that’s calmed down but still aches. That book became the objectification of me knowing that relationship was crap, yet trying so very hard.

I watched this scene of the movie and equally felt sure I would never make a gift like this for anyone again, and also hoping that I absolutely would one day.

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