My life in 10 objects

Have you heard BBC Radio’s The History of the World in 100 Objects?

I’m addicted!

It’s based on 100 objects in the enormous collection of the British Museum, and I’ve so far heard the fascinating backstories of a Mayan lintel, an Anglo-Saxon helmet and a Korean roof tile; you can download all of them from the link above.

If you’re as much a fan of history, global culture and design as I am, you’ll love it.

This series also made me wonder which 10 objects might somehow sum up my life so far, and how they have shaped or reflected my own history. These are not the only ones, certainly, but each reveals a facet of my character and what matters most to me in life..


Olympic badges from Tokyo

My father went to Japan to make several documentaries and brought me back some cloth badges from the Olympics. I was only seven, but seeing them made concepts like foreign travel, Japan and the Olympics alluringly real to me. It also piqued myΒ  insatiable curiosity about the rest of the world — the hallmark of the rest of my life, really. (I still haven’t made it to an Olympics or to Japan though.)


My Canadian passport

I was maybe seven or eight when I first recall using my own passport, and my first solo trip I remember was flying from Toronto to Antigua. I love being able to move freely between countries.


Two bears and a bunny

And yes, I still have them…photo of two of them above! The bunny was a gift from my maternal grandmother one Easter and his battered remnants are in the back of my closet. He was so stitched and repaired by the end he was practically transparent. He saw me through some tough times as an only child with no sibs to commiserate with.

The tiny bear is perfectly pocket-sized and kept me lucid and sane through yet another boarding school church service. The larger white bear looks a lot like (!?) my paternal grandmother. Don’t ask me how. He just does. He’s been all over the world with me, even in recent years, and is a very good travel companion. I imagine he has much amused TSA agents and chambermaids.


Acoustic guitar

I attended summer camp in northern Ontario and every Sunday we put on a talent show that anyone brave enough to step onto the stage — in front of the whole (all girls) camp — was welcome to try. Thanks to my guitar and some crazy self-confidence, I did it often and sang songs I’d written. The welcome I received taught me to not be so scared to try new things or in front of a crowd.


Pentax SLR camera

Loaned to me by a friend of my father who knew I had a budding and passionate interest in photography. I sold three color images of the city — one of our garage! — to Toronto Calendar magazine, a monthly — while still in high school for $300, a fortune in 1975 and still a pile ‘o dough. Discovering so young that my work had some commercial value gave me the courage to start freelancing as a (self-taught) shooter and I sold a photo to Time Canada when I was still in college.


Carte de sejour

This little pink piece of cardboard, the official French document allowing me the legal right to live there for a while, was my ticket to the best year of my life, on a journalism fellowship based in Paris. I spent eight months living, learning and traveling on their dime (or franc!) and studied with 27 peers, all of us aged 25 to 35, from 19 countries, from Japan to Brazil to New Zealand. I’m still in touch with a few of them. That year taught me the true meaning of one of my favorite words — se debrouiller (to be resourceful, to figure it out on your own.)


Green card

As the then unmarried child of an American citizen, my mother, I was able to apply for, and get, a “green card”, also known as an alien registration card.Β  I am a registered alien. That card gives me the legal right to live and work (although not vote) in the U.S.


Softball glove

I started playing softball with a local group of fellow suburbanites, men and women ages 18 to 70-something, which includes a cantor, several psychiatrists, college professors, an orthopedic surgeon, a pastry chef and a retired ironworker. These people know me better than almost anyone here in New York. I usually play second base and can hit to the outfield.

I love having an activity that’s outdoors, social, athletic, fun, builds skills and is competitive enough to be energizing but mellow enough to be enjoyable.

Here’s my New York Times essay about my gang.


A pink and orange polka-dot apron

I love to cook and to entertain and a big, pretty apron is a must! I bought this one, in such deliciously French colors, at one of my favorite Paris stores, BHV. If you visit Paris, check it out.

If you were to select a few items that could explain your life to those who don’t know you personally, what would they be and why?

20 thoughts on “My life in 10 objects

  1. What a novel concept! Some great food for thought. One item I might select would be the copy of “The Little Prince” which my parents gave to me many years ago and from which I have drawn much inspiration. Thanks for sharing. Cheers.

  2. Wow – thanks for introducing me to an amazing site. It does have me wondering about the objects in my life, too. Not just the ones that define me, but that define my “place” – particularly the state I live in. Very interesting.

  3. Pingback: 11 objects that define my life « The Edmonton Tourist

  4. This was a really entertaining and thought-provoking post. The stories behind your objects were a lot of fun to read! If I had to narrow mine down to a few items, I think I would have to choose my late grandmother’s wedding ring (given to me long before she passed away, because she decided that if she didn’t do it herself, “The lawyers’ll probably screw it up after I’m gone!”), the first Mother’s Day card I got from my daughter, and my old record player. Funny that another person posted about The Little Prince, as that is a book that also means a lot to me, and I now own a few different editions of it, including a pop-up one that I just got last Christmas. Not to be a copycat, but maybe I’d add one of those to the list as well. πŸ™‚

  5. I had considered including my wedding ring as well, so glad you included yours.

    I’m still reeling (clutches chest, sighs, rends garment) that you don’t consider my blog cool or likely to change the world.



    1. haha! Big oops! Well, If it’s any consolation I reckon you’ve changed my world (sounding awful gay in a non politically correct way) and many of your reader’s worlds – which I suppose means you’ve changed the world…now I’m getting incredibily philosophical…but please keep up the posts, I enjoy them all πŸ™‚

    2. Just thinking about it, I don’t think I read any ‘cool’ blogs. I find them a little boring with the writers trying to hard to be cool/cutting edge. What I like about the blogs I read regularly is that they give the impression that they aren’t trying to hard. πŸ™‚

      1. I hate “cool” and have never aspired to join their ranks. So we certainly agree on that point.

        I know I’m changing the world because I am able to change the way people think and behave, if not through this little blog, but through my books.

        That’s enough for me.

  6. As always, a great post.

    It’s such an interesting concept, isn’t it: the objects that characterise our life?

    Off the top of my head in a flash: my piano (it’s the one on which I learnt to play as a teenager), my 12-string accoustic guitar, my slow-combustion fire-place, my record-player, a framed b&w landscape photo I took when I was in my very late teens, my black Ford Fiesta Econetic car (if I didn’t have it I wouldn’t be able to get around – plus I love being in it, doing all the driving in the country that I do), my humble little Canon digital camera, this laptop, my grandmother’s old electric jug, my other grandmother’s series of four rammikins, the same grandmother’s black Planet lamp, my father’s painting of his hometown.

    My, how much music and the colour black there is in my life!

  7. I love your list! It sounds very much like you…all about creativity and some soul and some age and some patina. I’m super impressed with a 12 string acoustic. What a glorious sound they make. Thanks for sharing!

  8. I can only think of 3 of mine, off the cuff: Digital SLR, notebook and Teva sandals. Photography, journalling and walking, integral parts of my life no matter where i am.

    I’m curious – do you still use your old SLR or has hubby (or anyone else for the matter) talked you into upgrading to something swanky/digital? πŸ™‚

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