When we go to work each day, our youngest son, Wyatt, goes to Ms. Rosa’s house. Already at the very young age of six months, Wyatt communicates what and who he enjoys quite clearly. There is no doubt: he enjoys spending time with Ms. Rosa. He smiles when he sees her and leans towards her — his signal that he wants to go to her. He gives her kisses and snuggles into her as she hugs him. Fortunately, Ms. Rosa also enjoys spending time with Wyatt and it is clear that she takes wonderful care of him every day. She is like another grandmother to Wyatt.
Often when I go to pick up Wyatt from Ms. Rosa’s house, I end up staying and chatting with Ms. Rosa for a while. She tells me about her sons, her grandchild, her friends in the neighborhood. She always has a funny or interesting story to relate. Often, her stories are about her travels. She grew up in Cuba and, when she was in her late teens, she came to the United States seeking asylum from the Castro regime. She got married and raised children here.
Throughout Ms. Rosa’s home, beautiful pieces of pottery — plates, pitchers, bowls — are displayed on bookshelves. A small collection of clay adobe houses are clustered on one shelf. During Christmas, an intricate nativity scene lived on a corner table. Art and bilingual poetry books occupy the coffee table. And each of these items tells a story.
One day, I told Ms. Rosa that I thought her pottery was beautiful. She told me that she collected the pieces during the year she lived in Spain with her husband and two sons who were school-aged at the time. Another day, she told me about the small houses on the shelf and how an artist in a Spanish market gave several to her because she’d visited the market so often. She seems to love reminiscing about Spain — the food, the people, the roads trips her family would take while there, and, for a change, having her sons immersed in and speaking without hesitation their parents’ first language — something, she has said, it was difficult to do while living at the time in a community in the United States where there were very few Spanish speaking people around. Her sons understood Spanish completely and could speak it, but would respond to their parents’ Spanish in English.
Her walls, filled with artwork and photographs, also hold stories. Much of the hanging pieces she’s talked about came to her — were given to her by friends and former neighbors. Some of the photographs are of family; others are gifts from children she’s taken care of over the years. Her wall gallery, along with the well traveled items on tables and shelves, speak to some of Ms. Rosa’s key moments, experiences, relationships, and memories — a curated life.
It is interesting to think about how our life stories get told through the items we bring home from our travels, the objects we decide to live with and share with others through display. What’s also interesting are the ways the gifts we accept from others and make a part of our homes can tell stories about the meaningful connections we’ve made with others.
Recently, a good friend tracked down a beautiful Mexican Otomi tapestry and gave it to us for Wyatt’s christening gift. Handmade by Otomi Indians in Hidalgo, these textiles are hand crafted from cotton muslin. The piece is gorgeously arrayed with vibrantly colored animals. We are using the textile as a bedspread, and every time we see it or watch how Wyatt gets excited at the sight of the colorful, mythically-rendered animals, we are reminded of our friend’s many trips to Mexico, his love of Latin American cultures, and his willingness to share a bit of that with us.
How do objects in your home tell stories about your travels? Your memories? About your connections with others?