Monday, January 30, 2006

The Journeys We Take

Blogroll Me!

Me: "I think I understand why that carrier is called SAMSON; it would have to be mighty strong to hold all those pieces of luggage."

Porter: "That's right, ma'am. That SAMSON does its job real well, just as I do mine. Now which suitcase did you say is yours?"

Me: "Um...that blue trunk on the right near the top, and that red suitcase at the top in the middle. Do you think it'll be a problem to get them for me?"

Porter: "Not at all, ma'am. You ever heard of the domino effect? I'll just reach for this red one on the bottom right, will pull it out, and just like Jericho's walls came a-tumblin' down, so will those suitcases. It'll then be a snap to get yours!"

I chose this image 'cause I thought it was fun; I created this scenario 'cause I thought it was fun. But when I thought of writing this post, I was a bit more serious, a bit more pensive...

How many times have you driven past houses or apartment buildings and seen the garbage cans and bags sitting curbside, sometimes along with household odds and ends, furniture, appliances, and SUITCASES?

Have you ever noticed those suitcases? Really noticed them?

Have you stopped to think about the journeys those bags have taken, the stories they could tell?

Many of them are in perfectly good shape -- not torn, not broken, just old and outdated. A beautiful heavy plastic Samsonite trio of suitcases might be tossed aside in favour of a cloth, oversized carryon with wheels. A wooden steamer trunk might have made the trek across a couple of continents and the ocean, later to go into storage, then to come out of storage and become someone's end table, then to get tossed aside, now an outdated eyesore.

I love vintage luggage. I love going into my parents' basement and seeing the beautiful pieces that my family traveled with in the 1960's and 1970's, and the big brown leather suitcases that my father traveled with in the 1940's and 1950's.

His suitcases have a history. Those pieces have journeyed -- not necessarily traveled, but journeyed. And there is a difference.

No, his suitcases don't have those old-fashioned stickers adorning them; he wasn't in Naples, or Paris, or Geneva, or Salt Lake City, or the Grand Canyon. But their interiors hold secrets, secrets whispered quietly when nobody can hear.

I went a few years ago to a content sale down my street; the homeowner who was a widow was downsizing and moving from her house into a condominium. There was nothing she was offering that I needed. But there was something that I wanted. It was a wooden trunk--it was not in good and serviceable condition, I didn't know what I would do with it, but I felt that I ought to have it because I felt that it represented her journey no doubt across the ocean from Eastern Europe to Canada. I couldn't understand why she'd want to part with it, whether it was in good condition or not.

My husband hemmed and hawed with me about the purchase and then we jointly decided against it. "Where would we put it? What would we do with it? It really does look broken and junky. And how do we know it was the homeowner's trunk and not just something she picked up once she settled here?" Why did I seem so adamant about taking on what I imagined to be part of her personal history? It was exactly that -- HER history, not mine.

There is a book that I know of, Hana's Suitcase, which was written a few years ago by a Torontonian. The book is based on the story of the suitcase of a girl who was taken to, and died in, Auschwitz. Her suitcase represents a young girl who died too young, but whose story has been told in many different languages all around the world.

Yes, Hanna and her suitcase took a journey. Her suitcase survived. Hanna didn't.


... Is the Window to Our Soul said...
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... Is the Window to Our Soul said...

I know exactly what you mean. I love old trunks and luggage too but mostly I think because of the romance that is intertwined in them. Not romance between a man and a woman, but of the history, the travels. I was living in a house in SF and in the basement was an old trunk from a marine in WW2. The owner bought it at a yard sale because the name on it was from his hometown. He didn't want it and gave it me. I still have and love to display it. It's such a conversation piece.

Recently, my husband stopped by at an "estate" sale and called me all excited about these two trunks that he discovered. I went out to see it later, and although there were awesome trunks, the house was so dirty and old, I was afraid that there might be roach or other type insects eggs living in it. So we passed on them. But they were really cool trunks.

The real me said...

My grandma has a trunk her her basement from the 30s, its in great condition, you can have it if you can pick it up...


cruisin-mom said...

Wow...I have to admit you mesmorized me with this post...I will never look at old luggage quite the same way.

Rebecca said...

What a beautiful post. I really loved it. I sometimes use my great grandmother's luggage. It has a big flower on it. You know those things that used to be stuck inside a bathtub so you wouldn't slip? well she took one and put it on her suitcase so she could identify it easier. I love that suitcase!

torontopearl said...

Thank you all for your comments. The truth is that this post took its own journey. When I knew it would not be just cutesie, but more pensive, I had NO CLUE I would be linking to Hana's Suitcase. I just thought I'd be wondering aloud about places suitcases have been to or come from. But Hanna's Suitcase was appropriate. There are rooms in concentration camps (can't remember which --Auschwitz perhaps?) that displays suitcases of inmates/prisoners. Just think about those one-way journeys for many many people...

... Is the Window to Our Soul said...

Sorry Pearl about my bug reference. I guess it's still quite fresh in my memory.

Unknown said...

I REALLY love that picture AND your story...I'd love to know what happens when they come down!!!

torontopearl said...

Sweettooth, no problem. You know me, I'm very detailed, so every little bit (even the parts I'd cringe at) adds to a story.

Z, thanks for writing in. I DON"T want to be around when those suitcases and trunks come raining down.