Excerpts from Freedom and Attachment
collected and edited by Lindsey Scherloum 2012-13
When one has chosen or been forced to leave the place we once knew as home, what are their most valuable possessions and why?
Interviews conducted between 11/2012 and 3/2013 in Berlin, DE; Boston, US; Dublin, IE;
London UK; Mfangano Island, KE; and the Allegheny County Jail, in Pittsburgh, US.
26 F. From Stockholm, SE. Expat in Berlin, DE 2 years.
What if my house were on fire? I would take something smart. My binder with all my papers, my passport, my shulfrei and my mit ferien, and blah blah blah. It has all the documents that prove who I am in Germany, how long I’ve been here, and that my financial status is OK and that everything is inordenen. The binder’s a really nice minty green, actually, that we picked out carefully. In Germany where they love stamps, and they love documents, you quickly start to collect papers that gets you where you need to be. You learn slowly what keys you need for an apartment, and after that, what keys you need to get a job. It builds on, and all of those keys are in that binder. Understanding what you need to do to get each specific document took weeks, that’s really something to hold on to. I’m still amazed that I live in Germany. It’s like, really? You still do this? You actually have to walk over to this office and get a stamp to be able to take this paper to the next stop? In Sweden we don’t do that anymore. We don’t do stamps. We stopped with stamps so long ago. I would love if I didn’t have to have that stupid binder.
30 F. from Rockville, MD, US. Expat in London, UK 7 years.
What came to mind was my keys. It wasn’t because they open anything that’s particularly important, but they’ve become a lot more valuable since I added this keychain of a little amethyst crystal. I was inspired to do so because one day I had this window open on my computer that was a picture of a beryl, and I was going about doing various things I had to do, and I kept accidentally going back to the window with the beryl crystal and it made me feel really happy in a way I didn’t think was possible from looking at something. I usually disdain the practice of keeping photographs of kids or something nice on desks. I’m like, “Does that really help?” But then this window that I kept accidentally going to made me feel really good. So I had these little keychains and I put one on my keys and I actually get happy every time I take my keys out now, which didn’t used to happen. It’s really nice because it’s just at random, normal times during the day, and it makes me happy to look at it, I think, because it catches the light, and I live in a gray place.
43 F. From McKeesport, PA, US. Incarcerated 8 months.
Batteries. Because I need them to light cigarettes, which I’d rather not get into, and I need them to play music which is my only contact to the outside world. Music is ingrained in me since I was born. My father’s a musician, I’ve always had music playing. I get really depressed if I don’t have music, so I desperately need it. My favorite is Hardcore Punk but I like everything except Country. It gives me memories, puts me in a mental place and gives me emotions and energy. It can calm me down and focus my thoughts at other times. Batteries are a girl's best friend.
58 F. From West Ireland. In Dublin, IE 40 years.
I really don’t have anything valuable now. You can hardly say your home, yeah your home. I want to say my home is the most valuable. I live there, anything I have, I suppose, it’s there. It holds all my memories of my family and bringing up my children, so I suppose that’s why.
28 M. From South Hills, PA. Incarcerated 7 months.
At this point in time it would have to be my set of colored pencils, because I can draw, and it helps me escape this place I’m in. Sometimes I do it when I can’t sleep, other times I do it when I have a lot on my mind to divert my attention to something else. I would lend you probably anything else you asked for besides my colored pencils. They’ve lasted, so far, quite long. I’m always keeping an open eye to pick up colored pencils if someone has them who’s leaving, or any way I can get more, but I’ve stretched the pretty well. You learn to mix them, use different pressures, and you can really stretch 12 colors into an endless amount. I‘ve definitely refined my skills a lot being here. I draw a lot of cars—always grew up around cars, working on them, building them, customizing them. I can’t work on the real thing, so I draw my own. Really it’s almost therapeutical. You’d be surprised what, even with a normal number 2 pencil, you can do with imagination and enough time.
28 M. From Bishop’s Wharf, UK. Expat in Boston MA 3 years.
My Fijian mask is my most treasured possession because it came to me when I was on a round the world trip with three of my best friends when we were 19 years old. We were supposed to be in Fiji for 3 weeks and we ended up staying for 6 weeks at this one hut, and this mask was on the wall looking down at us the whole time. Every night and every day it watched us. We would smoke weed, and sleep, and go out to the beach, and come back, and this face, we’d look up at it sometimes. All the Fijians that worked on the island we made friends with, and they’d come by and tell us stories that this mask would look over us while we were sleeping and make sure we were good. ‘Cause we were high most of the time, that was really cool. So on my last day I stole it. Later I realized they continued to take money out of my bank account for a couple of weeks after we left, then I didn’t feel bad that I took this thing, that meant so much to me, off the wall. Every time I look at it I am reminded of this trip, and we were all kind of naive and didn’t want to be dampened down by society or the world or how life can kind of suck sometimes. We were all just young and said “Fuck it! Have a good time.” So i’m reminded of that every time i see my Fijian mask on the wall.
26 F. From Arcata, CA. In Cambridge, MA 2 years.
The blanket I have on my lap right now. It was made by my grandmother so it relates to my grandma who I don’t have a relationship with right now although she is still living. She crocheted a blanket for each of her grandchildren. And she crocheted mine blue and yellow because those were the colors painted on my wall at the time when I was about 11 years old. I think it’s a symbol of my family that I have lost contact with and so it’s sort of a way of staying connected with them.
31 M. from McKeesport, PA. Incarcerated 12 months.
My dad’s ring. He passed away in 2007. I was upstate and they let me out by mistake and I came home for a year, and good thing I did because my dad died that year. When I went to the funeral he had his ring on and I took it off his finger and I kept it. It’s all gold with a black stone and three diamonds on each side of it. I think he acquired it while I was upstate at some point, but thats just the last thing that was on his body before they put him in the ground. I wear it when I’m home but I knew I was coming to jail, and I didn’t want them to take it, so I put it in a jewelry box. My finger feels naked without it. It’s like he’s with me all the time, even though I know he still is, but it’s more physical. I’m married too, and it was harder to take that off than it was my wedding ring. My dad was my best friend. Yeah. That’s it, I don’t want to cry.
20 F. From Kisumu, KE. In Mfangano, KE 6 months.
My most valuable possession is my phone. My phone helps me a lot, ‘cause it has my music, it has my contacts, it’s the only thing i know that can help whenever I need help. I can contact different people and also when i need to be alone at least i can have my music with it. So It’s so important i can’t go a day without it. Yeah, I talk so much with my dad. I ask so much about my family in Kisumu and sometimes I tell him about the challenges i face when i am not with them. Sometimes you know you get so much stress, that’s the kind of music i listen to to cool me up. It’s a Nokia, the simplest and the cheapest one. I’ve had my phone since 3 years now. You are not allowed to have a phone unless you are done with your schooling so i got it when i finished my high school. It’s broken on the screen and it has had so many accidents but it’s still working. It is so precious I don’t want to lose it.
40 F. From Atwood City, PA. Incarcerated 7 months.
My most valuable possession is a picture of my son who is gone, he was killed by a drunk driver. I have it with me at all times. It’s him in his football uniform and his little girlfriend in her cheerleading uniform behind him. He’s 10 years old, and it’s just one of the happiest days in my life. I constantly look at it, kiss it good night every night, tell him I love him every night. Every day the first thing I look at is his picture. I stick it to my window at night and then I carry it with me all day. At home it was easier because I had his things around me. I know it’s been 9 years, but his bedroom is still the same and it always will be. It’ll always be Mikey’s room. I have a 21year old daughter and a 2 year old grandson who is the love of my life, and you know, I’m starting to think I should give Mikey’s stuff to my grandson. It’s time to let go and move on. When i’m home, his room, his things are the most important thing to me. I know parents say I don’t have a favorite child, but you always do, and nobody will ever take Michael’s place.
35 M. From Wemouth, UK. Expat in Berlin, DE 14 months.
I’ve been moving around a lot as an artist, so I’ve gotten quite used to not having a lot of possessions. So there’s only about 5 or 6 books that I carry around with me everywhere I go. They’re valuable in the sense that they remind me of certain ideas that are in my work and my practice, so if ever I get disorientated I can go back to these books. The actual objects of the books I wouldn’t mind if they got destroyed in a fire. So it’s not even really the books, it’s the ideas in the books which are the most valuable possessions. And even those ideas aren’t the most valuable possessions either, it’s the ideas they trigger that are the most valuable possessions. The one I always think of first is a book by David Bohm, and he is a physicist and kind of a philosopher and he wrote this book called Wholeness and the Implicate Order. I literally just found this book one day and it’s everything that I’ve been thinking about but expressed infinitely more coherently. But so really, essentially, a possession isn’t an object. A possession is your connection to the object.