I just noticed this new book on the New Hardcovers table. My mom and I always used to play this game, talking about what we would rescue on a moments notice if we had to. It's a tough prompt, but at the same time, liberating. The question forces you to mentally pair down your most important, treasured belongings into what is really essential to your existence. The key seems to be to balance what you would need to rescue yourself from the instant destitution you find yourself in - imagine yourself, in pajamas, standing barefoot on a lawn, a building behind you engulfed in flames. I picture myself at dusk, a pink-grey salmon belly of a sky disappearing behind the smoke, but really, you can go with your gut on the time of day.
There seems to be no limit in the book to how many items you can take, but I'm going to say its whatever you can manage to carry. In my opinion, roommates and spouses, etc, are not required to be mentioned in your list, but children and babies are. I don't have a spouse or a baby, but I do have a roommate with insomnia, so I probably would be shaken awake by her to begin with. I think my list would have to be:
- one of the many, many photo albums of my childhood
- my favourite pink dress
And while that is a weird transcendent experience, to hold one's own Borrower-sized baby clothes in one's now larger-than-average lady hands, it's really time for me to give these memorials of myself away. Or throw them out, in some cases. I don't know why we accrue these items, but we do. Is it because we are desperate to tell our own stories? Scrambling for proof that we were on this earth, something besides photographs and here say. Somehow, our own two feed on the ground, the feel of the air, the light refracting inside the rods and cones of our eyeballs is not enough.
But about the book. Once you start flipping through pages, it soon becomes clear that, for most of the entrants in this fantasy scenario, the objects they choose to save are clearly more related to how these individuals wish to be perceived, rather than what they would actually miss in the event of a fire. One 24 year old from the Bronx displays, "two small photo graphs in beautiful frames". The photographs are tiny, only about two inches long, house in equally small, ornate brass frames. They look old, probably rescued from a thrift store or antique warehouse. It would appear this woman does not know who the people are in the photographs. Sure, these could have sentimental value for her, maybe they were given to her by somebody important and that's how they've transferred value into her life, but I find it far more likely that she just wants to be perceived as someone who would rescue two tiny, anonymous and arcane photographs in the event of a fire, because she is quirky and mysterious.
Which way of thinking about the "what would you save" list appeals to you more? And, more importantly, what would you save? If you want to come in and look at this book, it's on the new paperbacks table. Start thinking, friends.