[color]Rachel Steinberg[/color] is the artist behind [color]Eulogy[/color], a one-to-one performance of curated objects and storytelling. Here is Rachel’s anecdotal response to the question “How do we attach meaning to objects?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you…it doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
“Hi! Welcome to the cart. You’ve been chosen to come home to our house, our pantry. I’m so excited to have you! Oh, don’t worry, you won’t be lonely. In fact, hey, Crunchy Peanut Butter? This is Honey Nut Cheerios. You guys will be pantry roommates, so you probably want to start getting to know one another.”
Whenever my parents took me grocery shopping, I would stand in front of the shelf and choose whichever exact box or bag of each specific product seemed to speak to me. Sort of like choosing a pet at an animal shelter, except instead of a kitten it would be boxes of DunkAroos or bags of tortilla chips. Once they were chosen, through some sort of silent-Loblaws-ESP, I’d carefully welcome each piece, introduce it to its new cart-compadres and let it know how special it was that I had chosen it over all the other boxes/bags/packages of the same product.
And then I’d eat it.
Chester and I met in Vermont, in the gift shop of the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory. My dad had just completed chemo and was walking with a cane, so our tour guide had cast him in the part of Teddy Roosevelt, bravely marching into the forest and saving a baby bear tied onto a tree. After the tour, I met Chester: big brown eyes and wearing a baseball uniform, which is second to only pilot-wear in the list of Surefire Things That Will Get Me To Fall For You or at Least Consider You Very Seriously. Chester went home with me that night and for years he greeted me with a warm, fuzzy hug as he fell asleep in my arms.
A few weeks ago at my dad’s house in Ottawa, I went down to my basement to find Chester and discovered that he, along with numerous others, had perished as a result of a mildew-inducing water pipe burst, and had been, months before my discovery of his absence, tossed into a garbage bag en route to a landfill. I bawled, wracked with guilt that I could let something like this happen to someone I once considered one of my best friends. I turned to the Internet, in search of something to make me feel better, or at least understood, and found this article. I’m still not sure if that article makes me feel comforted or more crazy, but I did feel like there were people out there who understood.
One thing I do know: I will never get the image of Chester in a landfill out of my mind. And my heart creaks and cracks each time I picture it.
I think in part I feel this way because of this: