In 1878, Tolstoy wrote one of literature’s most memorable first lines: “All happy families are just alike; but all unhappy families are unhappy each in their own way.”
“Anna Karenina” is one of his elite novels, pulsing with memorable lines. For me, the one that locks most tightly into my thoughts and moods is when Anna, compelled to leave her home, sighs: “But I need my things about me….”
Don’t we all!
To have to leave your home and your roots — no matter how felicitous the prospects — is like tearing out the roots of a California Redwood and expecting it to thrive on Park Avenue. Anna had in her rooms what each of us must. Her own private galaxy of fragile possessions. Trinkets to some… memorabilia to others…stuff to George Carlin.
Each was carved out of time past in order to reside there in our rooms as living witnesses. To that graduation night… job award… first baby bootee…Christmas card…poem saved from the love of your heart… GI tag saved from the days of your distant assignment.
Each of us has a small hungry hole in our soul which needs filling. There are those inflection points in our life’s narrative when you don’t want people around you. Your are weary of the glut of screens around you. All you really want around you are your things. Holdable minutiae which help you in the first break of day realize you’re still were you belong. And at the last yawn of night believe that all these memories were once as real as forever!
Anna’s “things around me” were her private museum open any hour of the day or night. Ours too.
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