Emotional bric-a-brac won't fit in a tin

Posted January 17, 2013

Emotional bric-a-brac won't fit in a tin

When shopping for Christmas gifts, I came across something called a ‘Man Tin’. It does what it says on the, erm … tin - holds all the random bits and pieces a man loves to horde. I resisted the urge to buy one for the man in my life. For starters, he couldn’t possibly fit all the crap that he currently stores in his ‘man drawer’ into just one tin.

I’d have to buy him a collection of man tins.  Then what? A man storage cabinet to house his collection of man tins? Before you know it, he’d be requesting a special man room. Oh, hang on, he’s already got one of those. It’s the chaos space he calls a study!
I noted that there was no female equivalent of the man tin on display in the shop. I decided to investigate. Later that day, when I googled Woman Tin, I was directed to women’s Tinkerbell costumes. Eh??!! I substituted the word box, but Woman Box only led to information on female pugilists. I didn’t dare try Lady Box. 

It was only when I began to quantify the ‘stuff’ that I’ve collected over the years that I realised I horde totally different things to my husband. Him: ‘useful’ bits such as leads, batteries and allen keys. Me: emotional bric-a-brac.

Here’s a selection of the emotional bric-a-brac I’ve tucked away (neatly!), in red and white storage boxes:
* Old photos. These aren’t logically grouped in computer folders, by date and subject. Instead, they tumble loose from the boxes. They come in a myriad of sizes; some are fading, others are creased. I love wracking my brain, trying to remember what year they were taken, what age I was, what I was doing at that point in my life. Much more evocative than simply viewing them on a computer screen. 

* A three-legged glass horse - a love token from John, a boy I met in California when I was 17. He didn’t actually present me with a three-legged horse at the time, because that would be weird. I dropped it on a tiled floor.

* A Christmas card from said Californian boy that I didn’t know I’d kept. The bigger surprise was the message inside. He wrote about being asked to give a back massage to the Vice President, George Bush. He says that: “the weather was terrible that day and time didn’t allow. It was an interesting experience though as the secret service people searched my table and linens and I watched some of the politicking going on.” I should explain that he qualified as a chiropractor a few years after I met him.  I’ll leave you to calculate the date (clue – we’re talking George Bush Senior).

* My first job promotion letter. It reminds me of how proud I felt at the time although the salary would barely cover my council tax bill now.

* All my wedding and first anniversary cards. My 40th and 50th birthday cards. I don’t know why I ignored my 30th. Perhaps it was the trauma of the first 0?

* The first handwritten notes from my nephews and nieces, with misspelt words, artistic flourishes, smiley faces and Xs and Os that are bigger than the script itself.  To me, these are a more personal and tangible link to the past than any photograph I have of them.

* A locket given to me when I was a bridesmaid, age 7. I like to think it was in recognition of the sterling job I did.

* My diary from my last year at university. Apparently I did very little, especially after meeting my husband to be, in the run up to my finals. That would account for the diary entry on the day of my English Literature examination (the Restoration period) which simply states “Awful!”

* Business cards from restaurants I’ve visited in France. There are an awful lot of these.

* A holiday souvenir for my mother-in-law. She never made it home from hospital to receive it.

* A transcript of the message that accompanied the flowers I placed outside Buckingham Palace, on behalf of my family, as a tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales.

* My student membership card from university. The first example of identity theft as the photograph obviously belongs to some other person.

* A gold and pearl bracelet. It was to congratulate me on my graduation (yep, I actually passed the Restoration English exam) and was the first gift my husband ever gave me. We had very little money … so it’s a VERY fine gold chain, no more than the width of a human hair and the pearls are just about visible to the human eye.

The boxes’ contents have expanded over the years. All the key events in my life are distilled into these momentos. I spent a glorious couple of hours this afternoon revisiting them, recalling events from my past, discovering things I didn’t even know I had. Rummaging through a man tin could never provide such pleasure.

Postcript from her husband
First of all, can I just say that my study is not a disorderly mess! I know exactly where to find everything. Why is it such a problem that it’s mostly on the floor?
As for the man tin? Well, I’m beginning to think that it’s not such a bad idea after all. A three-legged glass horse won’t help with a power cut whereas my torch or emergency candle will at least light the way.
Of course I can’t ever see myself connecting emotionally with the contents of my man tin. A set of allen keys obviously wouldn’t trigger the same intensity of feeling as a glass horse (by the way, where has she hidden this casualty all these years?) although I have had some emotional outbursts using them on self-assembly furniture.

Image: Anoop Valluva, flickr

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