Object Permanence



Every January for 25 years, my friend Mary Ellen hosted a women’s luncheon in which  she served a flavorful winter soup and a few side dishes.

As guests, our task was to bring an appetizer, champagne and an object that represented  the year that has just ended. The afternoon was spent in an adult version of “Show and Tell,” taking turns telling the stories that animated the items.

Over the years, I’ve forgotten many of the women’s stories but I remembered what they brought. I can still see the magnifying mirror from the woman who just turned 50. The basketball, soccer ball and baseball from the mother of three athletic sons. The photographs from the woman just back from Cuba. The Mary Oliver poem from the woman who had lost several friends that year.

Some years into this ritual, I recognized the value of keeping a record of my own luncheon artifacts. The large box pictured above is filled with envelopes, marked by year, with the object or record of it inside.

What’s interesting is how quickly the sight of these items reconjure the year in question.

Objects are concrete. Tangible. Understood.

When we work them into our stories, people can see them. They provide visual heft. They can be a shorthand for larger ideas and feelings. Perhaps a metaphor. An object offers a way to move time without referring to literal time. They age; show wear and tear but can be refurbished.

A well-selected object makes your stories pop. Your message will remain in the screen and hopefully, heart of your listener or readers’ mind.

Photo by Ellen Blum Barish