The objects that fill and fill out our lives
Words and Photos by Julian Croman
Throughout life, people come in contact with many objects. Some of these possessions we hold briefly, others we hold for a lifetime. These items define us.
The Sense of Belongings project was born in pursuit of glimpsing the personalities of a community in its possessions. These are those possessions. The people behind them are the community. Together, they tell a story.
This is Charlotte and her goose, Gertie. The goose was given to Charlotte by one of her daughters many years ago. Gertie reminds Charlotte of her family. Charlotte dresses Gertie throughout the year in various outfits which correspond with seasons, holidays and festivities. Charlotte’s fellow retirees notice and bring Gertie up in conversation often. Charlotte’s intention behind the outfits is to brighten someone’s day with a small laugh. “When I moved here I thought, ‘I need to move her out to where people can chuckle and make fun of her,’” Charlotte said.
This is the Rev. Garry and his painting of Madonna. This painting was given to Garry during his time at St. Andrew Newman Center in Riverside, Calif. The painting depicts an African-American Mary which he says reminds him of his childhood maid. He remembers how she sacrificed for him: she would pick him up and shelter him from his father during his outbursts, and was wounded multiple times while protecting him. Garry said her mercy and love stay with him to this day. “The fact that this woman was being subjected to such horrible racism and yet still was willing to do that — that’s love,” he said.
This is Hannah and her signed copy of the Dalai Lama’s “The Art of Happiness.” Hannah’s father struggled with drug and alcohol abuse at a young age. Her father was given this book in recovery and credits the book for saving his life. On a pursuit to personally thank the Dalai Lama, Hannah and her parents flew to India. Meeting the Dalai Lama, Hannah says, was one of the most important moments of their lives. Her signed edition represents her father’s journey and years of overcoming addiction. Whenever Hannah is faced with difficult times, she grabs the book and reflects, feeling tied to her family in that moment. “It’s my father’s prized possession; it’s my prized possession. It runs deep in our family,” said Hannah.
This is Jim and his ukulele banjo. Jim’s mother gave him the ukulele when he was 10 in an attempt to keep him out of trouble, he said. His father was in a dance band and Jim would play with him when he wasn’t running around southern Idaho. The ukulele sparked Jim’s love for music. Jim still plays a variety of instruments from accordion to banjo for his neighbors at a Eugene retirement home. He says music allows him to connect to his community and with many friends and residents. Without his banjo, he would have never discovered his love for music. “It’s special to me because it was the first instrument that was actually mine,” he said.
This is Alyssa and her evil eye. In college, her mother received the evil eye from a close friend, the daughter of the Turkish Ambassador to South Korea. When Alyssa was born, she inherited the eye. In Turkish culture, the evil eye is believed to ward off evil spirits and protect those who bear it. Alyssa doesn’t feel at home without it. Her evil eye reminds her of her mother and family and gives her a sense of global community. “I’ve kind of lived in this in-between world, so for me the people who relate to that is my own personal family and they are the true group I belong to,” she said.