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Rest in Pieces

I'm not a person with destructive tendencies, but there are times when sentiment causes me to tip in that direction.

When my first car, a black '88 Mercury Tracer, passed away with little warning on the Saw Mill River Parkway, what provided solace before climbing into the tow truck was slicing a section of the tan and beige upholstery from the back of the driver's side seat cushion. (It was destined for the junkyard. Really, who would miss it?) I found comfort in the idea that part of my wonderful car could live on as, say, a purse to hold coins for tolls.

Similarly, when my parents voiced their intention to donate an old love seat to the Salvation Army—something I remembered playing around on as a little kid—I surreptitiously ripped off the label from the underside before they could drive off with it. The woven piece showed an early American motif with representations of script, serif, and sans serif type faces, along with Ben Franklin's profile, and was one of the first graphic pieces I remember being captivated by. It would have broken my heart to lose it.

In the same way, when wool gloves, purchased for me by a dear friend on her trip to Scotland, became too threadbare to continue wearing, my appreciation of the gesture and the life of the handsome woven label were extended by its careful removal. Warming my heart instead of my hands, the small tag continues to remind me of my kind friend, now gone.

And then, last night happened. The beloved mattress from my childhood had to be hauled to the curb, left to await the annual village bulk trash pick-up. Nearly every night—starting from when I was in nursery school until I went away to college—was spent sleeping on that supremely comfortable mattress. Years later, plucked from my mother's house before she downsized, my son had the blessing of it for much of his life, too. It was perfect. For sleeping and for enthusiastic jumping on, that mattress, along with the matching one my sister slept on, was the best in the house. Only the coils poking up and into my sleeping son's back compelled me, reluctantly, to replace it. Of some consolation was the act of cutting out the purchase info tag before saying good-bye. While no substitute for reliving the experience, the salvaged fabric label has its own utilitarian beauty: pertinent information typed on a manual typewriter, stamped with the (upside-down) Ohio certification seal, and sewn onto the mattress, one with classic striped ticking. A dear belonging that met an ignominious end.

They’re possessions, yes, but ones of significance. Through their use I defined my dreams, followed meandering thoughts, and slept in restful repose; began appreciating type and illustrated images, which opened the door to graphic design as a lifelong pursuit; developed independence, and discovered the exhilaration of getting myself where I wanted to go; and exercised the muscle allowing the heartrending feeling of closeness with one who's no longer present.

Although these possessions weren’t able to outlive their usefulness, part of their value to me is that they transcended it.

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