matchbooks and memorabilia

My friend Jordan, recently wrote about matchbooks. A picture of a few she liked, looked to me like match boxes. I ran into something that might be called a match book when I was traveling abroad. It was a folded piece of carton, with matches stapled in. But for all I know, perhaps in English, all containers of matches are called matchbooks.

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In any case, she wrote of an old friend of hers from her teenage days, a fellow by the name of Steve, who made quite an impression on her, and they kept in touch all these years. He runs a radio show now, in Canton, which I believe is Canton, China. In some random post, he had mentioned that he started collecting matchbooks, and since Jordan had just recently begun photographing matchbooks, she started collecting some of the interesting ones, to send to Steve.

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She was traveling, at the time, in India, and she said that once she got started on the subject of matchbooks, she would feel an anticipation, as she moved from one town to the next, wondering, what sort of matchbooks she might find in the next place. She said she found different matchbooks in every place she went, and often the picture on the matchbook could draw her into meditation.

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Her story reminded me of my own experiences with match boxes. As long as I can remember, there was only one company that made matches here in Israel. But from time to time, they would change the graphics on the cover of the box. And after each change, the sight of an old matchbox would remind me of the period in my life when that matchbox appeared.

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I don’t know if I’m a hoarder. I suppose I am, but I don’t see myself that way. But I do keep all kinds of souvenirs. Until the house gets too crowded, and then I start throwing things away. I kept the old match boxes for quite some time, because they reminded me of different periods, and I had an attachment to them, but at some point, it became a bit of a burden, and I threw most of them away. But there was one set that I especially liked. I don’t know who designed them, but there were drawings of animals on each match box. And during that time, which was in the late 80s, a new animal appeared on the match box just about every month. When I threw away the others, I kept these, and they sit on a book shelf, in front of some books in my library.

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If you were to ask me, on principle, I would say, the lighter the better. Possessions weigh you down. You have to take care of them. You have to move them from place to place. You have to clean them. No, it’s much better to make do with the minimum. I have traveled on long journeys… for long periods of time, many times with just a knapsack on my back. And with a knapsack, you are quite aware of the weight that you’re carrying around. At first I had a rather large pack, so that I could fit all kinds of things inside. I used to carry books!

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But the more experience I had, the more simple my possessions became. When first I started traveling, I had two suitcases. That’s because you can carry two. One in each hand. But the problem is, that you lose the use of your hands. That’s one of the wonderful things about a knapsack. You can carry a lot, and still have two hands free. But still, the life I lived wasn’t that simple. There were times when I needed a portable typewriter with me. Other times, it became so crucial not to get weighted down, that I wrote in a bound book, filled with white pages. I filled up quite a few such books, with an even handwriting, writing with a fountain pen on the paper.

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But it’s been many years now, that I’ve been living in the same home. It has quite a bit of space. And you know, the more space you have, the more you can accumulate. Sometimes, it takes a sign, to get a person to thinking about throwing things out. I remember once, I was sleeping peacefully in my bed, when a shelf full of books, attached to the wall high above me, collapsed, almost burying me in books. Waking up, in the midst of the avalanche, I thought that an earthquake had finally struck our town. But it turned out to be nothing more sinister than an overweight of books.

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Looking for these match boxes reminded me of how many possessions I have. All of them are dear to me for one reason or another. But at times, they are an imposition. And especially after reading of my friend Janet’s redecoration of her apartment, and the joy she felt when she started out again with white walls, made me think that maybe the time has come to lighten up. Of course, no sooner do we complete a reordering of our material possessions, than we become aware of all the things we are carrying in our minds… and in our hearts… But that is another story, that should be told another day.

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44 responses to “matchbooks and memorabilia

  1. I’ve been lightening up a lot this year, “possessionally-speaking,” and feel it has something to do with my awareness of aging and also the need to “clean house” spiritually. Books are my weakness; I feel “wealthy” when a lot are filling the shelves. But I know there’s more to it than that; I feel smarter, better-read, less likely to be seen as ignorant…all kinds of ego illnesses, I suppose. But I think the apparent and logical explanations are also useful: I like to read; I fill my house with things I enjoy…and I rid myself of “too much” because I have no children and have/want no one to “clean up” after me when I die…yikes, Shimon; you’ve led me to a thousand stories. I’ll just go off and ponder now…peace to your day.

    • Thank you for sharing some of your thoughts on the subject. I think you are very blessed to have the things you like and enjoy around you. And I live the same way… though sometimes, I do have the tendency to acquire things that weigh me down. It is very seldom that I think of what others will have to take care of when I die. I’ve done those chores too, and I suppose there will be those that will clean up after me. I have children, and many grandchildren, and I felt a great freedom when they went off to live their own lives. I do still enjoy seeing them now and then, but it is very different now. Thank you so much for your comment, and your blessing. My best wishes to you.

  2. Now that the days have become a little less cold, I’m in the middle of trying to clear out our garage, which has, incidentally not had a car in it for about 30 years. In other words it is simply an extension of our loft! I have old bits of wood, which I knew were essential to keep as i would DEFINITELY need them in the near future…..but i didn’t! There are enough screws, nut bolts, nails etc which would be enough to build an entire house, but never the correct size I need. Carpet, flooring, bits of wire, tools which are useless, numerous tins of paint etc, etc, etc…………….

    The majority is going to the dump after neighbors have been asked. and I might then have room to put in my bicycle, which has been in next-door’s garage for some years!

    It’s a bit the same with acquaintenances and people we met 10 or 15 years ago on holiday, and still send Christmas cards.’ Clearing out’ is not a nice phrase to use about dropping such weak relationships but it is sometimes better to let them drop and make the effort to form new healthy fresh relationships……just like the kind of people I have met on WordPress!

    • Oh, I definitely know that experience, you are describing, when cleaning your garage. So often we see something, and think we will some day need it… I still have boxes like that, hanging around… and on a rare occasion, I have found what I needed. And what you say about relationships with people rings true too. Though this is somewhat sad to most of us… there are those memories of closeness, even though we’ve drifted apart. But I agree with you, it is healthier to give our attention to those who matter to us now. And it is amazing, the people we meet on the internet… I am constantly amazed by this new dimension of life. Thank you, Harry.

  3. How you fascinated me once again… Oh, dear Shimon these are so beautiful, so beautiful. Andy how beautiful I learned a new word too, you know my English is not very good, especially not rich with her vocabulary, so this is amazing for me, to learn a new word, “memorabilia”…. Thank you so much. So precious all these things… Thank you, have a nice weekend, with my love, nia

    • I’m so happy you enjoyed them Nia. That makes my keeping them all these years worthwhile. And you’re right… it is a great pleasure to learn a new word in a foreign language, though it seems like there is no end to it in English, which is such a rich language. Thank you for your good wishes. Had a very nice weekend, and today, I’m beginning a new week again, and there was a little sunlight outside, which was very much appreciated. My very best to you.

      • You are welcome dear Shimon… I am glad there is sunlight there. In here, it is raining and tonight or tomorrowhey expect snow again… Sure, it is cold today. But the weekend was so nice… I just miss my son, he didn’t come this weekend too, he is working very hard. You are so nice with your photographs, with your writing/sharings and with your comments. I always want to read you more and I love your English language too. Once again thanks, dear Shimon, talk soon again, with my love, nia

  4. My husband retired last summer after 28 years in the military, which meant that we moved about every three years. Every move was an opportunity to look at all of our possessions in a new light as we found new places for them in the next home. Now, as all the children are on their own, we moved to a smaller house. We lightened our possessions by three rooms of furniture, but I admit that the “stuff” that went in those rooms was harder to get rid of and most of it is out of sight in the attic, yet nagging me in the back of my mind. We, too, have items that hold memories and are hard to let go, but we are also rejoicing in having fewer possessions that “own us!” Books made up the majority of our excess weight, but we have let most of them go as we are blessed by having a wonderful public library system.

    • I congratulate you on having fewer possessions that own you. That is very well put. I have lived many years in this same home. But I have had to move my photography studio on a number of occasions, and always wondered how I managed to assemble so much… and how it all fit into the rooms I had. Possessions can tell many a story, and I have thought about writing a book just about the many writing instruments I’ve had… or the cameras that accompanied me through the years. But most of all, I’ve been attached to books. And I do hope that the digital book will be able to lighten the load a bit. It seems to me a great invention. Thank you so much for your comment.

  5. The art on those match boxes are miniature masters. Lovely. I strive to streamline my space and my life but there are certain things that are unique and that return me to times now lost. Things like that, and the match books, need to be kept 🙂

    • I’m so glad you liked this little collection, winsomebella. It seems to me now, that I must have kept them all these years, just to share them on a post like this. That way it makes a bit of sense. It is good to streamline our lives… and there is so much beauty to be seen and appreciated every day. Thank you so much for your comment.

  6. Somethings just have to stay in our hearts.. Time for us to lighten up but also time to not let go…hmm? I love your collection..

    • Yes, Roberta… but there is so much in our hearts… sometimes, it seems that we don’t see anything, because it is all so crowded. But I do keep holding on to some things. I’m glad you liked them. Thank you for your comment.

  7. What a beautiful post that speaks of connections to an earlier time in our lives, and how something as simple as an old match box can be the inspiration for a fond memory. The actual matchboxes are so unique – they are like little pieces of art, with their vibrant colors and gorgeous blocking of the animal prints. As much as I can totally stand behind the concept of lightening our load, something as beautiful as those little match boxes seems to warrant a spot on the shelf, even if only to remind us that sometimes the simple things have the most value.

    What a lovely post, as usual, Shimon. Especially loved the way that at the end of the piece you move towards shifting our focus to the things that we carry in our minds, and in our hearts. If all such things which are precious and lovely as your match boxes, imagine how our hearts would sing!

    • Thank you so much, N. I think you understand exactly why I held on to those little match boxes. I did love their simplicity, and that they weren’t claiming to be art… and that they were just suppose to amuse us for a few minutes. The problem is that there is so much beauty in this world… and so much that we learn from… that we have to learn to keep on going without holding onto things. But sometimes, I too, like to leave the lesson for tomorrow. And I have much to say about what we carry in our minds… but for today, let me just say that I wait to hear your heart sing…

  8. I love your matchbox collection and the fact that they can take you back to joyful times in your life. Simple pleasures are often found in the most uncomplicated possessions.

    • Yes, Jack. I am often attracted to the simplest of things… and such matchboxes are an example. Thank you so much for coming by, and I hope to get to know you a bit too.

  9. As always, you’ve written a lovely post from which I’ve gleaned something useful. Thank you, Shimon.

  10. Really awesome art. I’d have to be strong armed to be rid of these. They are much too beautiful. I can see them mounted together in a white washed stained shadow box.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • I’m so glad you like it, Baroness. And it would be nice to see them mounted together as you suggest. But unfortunately, all the walls of my home are covered from floor to ceiling with book shelves and books, and there is no question that I am running out of space. Still, seeing that others were able to enjoy this memento gave some reason to my hanging on to them. I do appreciate your comment.

      • Oh do no let them go for sure.
        I love the image you gave me of your library. I have one long wall I designed a custom bookshelf for our books. But I’d love it if books enveloped me and my whole home. Anytime!
        Thank you for that!

  11. Great article. A theme of mine the last few years in business, art, photography and etc. has been to simplify as it is so easy to get overwhelmed.

    Love the match boxes.

    It is amazing how some things bring back memories. A great man used to sell antique work tools and I bought an old sledge hammer from him. It is one of my most prized possessions as he was one of my most prized friends! He was one great man with a wife that was so utterly sweet fixing homemade cookies as soon as you ever went in their door.

    • I agree with you completely, BoJo. There are so many things we encounter, that charm us, that we have to be careful not to get carried away. I, like yourself, have a great respect and fondness for good tools. Your story of the antique seller is quite enticing. I wonder if you took his portrait? Thank you for your comment.

  12. Thank you for sharing the pictures of the match boxes, Sir. Have never seen anything like it. Greetings, and have a good w/e. Love, cat.

  13. Shimon, if one really wanted to learn how to write, your reflections would suffice. You astound me with your poetry and your prose and your illustrations. These match boxes create their own little storybook. They require only a binding.

    • You are so sweet, George. And I do enjoy reading your stories too. How lucky we were to run into one another in the middle of cyberspace. And whenever I can entertain you, it’s a great joy for me.

  14. Your writing speaks to my heart, ShimonZ. The matchboxes are memories you have shared with us and that remind of us the mementoes we all keep because they are too lovely to throw away or are too closely attached to some part of our life in the past.

    I am a minimalist but things are always looking for a home and they must have put out the word that I have a basement now. Last summer I sent a lot of things to the Goodwill (second hand shop). I’ve told some of the things they can stay through the winter, but once it’s spring, they have to find new homes.

    • I admire your resolute stand, yearstricken, though I know that a loving pet is hard to refuse. I was walking down the street a few years ago, when a little gray kitten attached herself to my ankle, and just wouldn’t let go. This is after I had sworn to myself that I would have no more personal pets… Well, I didn’t have the heart to kick her aside, and now, six years later, she has the complete run of the house, and just suffers me to keep her company. We have to watch out for these things. Thank you, my dear, for bringing your inimitable smile to my post.

  15. I sure wish I had taken the tool salesman’s picture but it was quite a few years ago before I was too into photography. His picture would be a prized possession!

  16. At one stage people here who were able to travel and go on holiday collected spoons with badges of different places and countries.

    When I was still at school I collected fancy keyrings. Twelve years ago when we moved house I decided no more collections and hoarding because it causes too much problems.

    Thank you for sharing the collection with us … I have not seen one like it before. The camel is sooooo cute.

    • Yes I agree with you, GB. Most such collections turn out to be an irritant more than a treasure. But for just a minute, there was an advantage in these, in that I was able to amuse a few people, half way across the world.

  17. Wow, I could so relate myself with what you have wrote. I too collected many matchboxes from all the places I had visited, just as little souvenirs of all the great time I had there! They had these small flowers of various kinds or cartoons of Jokers on them. Ah,. your pictures remind me of all those. Nostalgia.

    • Thank you very much for coming by, Hindupur. I think it’s quite common for people to collect them. And it seems to me, that as photographers, we are also collecting souvenirs from different places and situations. The question then becomes what to do with them… or how to relate to them, after they are in our possession.

  18. It is always a joy to have a small collection of items which serve as life’s guideposts. Books are probably the most important symbolically, tracing our interests, and often inside are slips of paper or markers which again take us back. These are so sweetly simple, they draw a smile and make each of us understand both you and ourselves that much better. While in Israel, I collected flowers, pressing them inside a novel I was reading. When I got home I pressed them into the wax of a candle which I light only when needing to particularly remember your country and my visit.

    • It makes me happy to realize you felt so good when visiting our country, Lance. I like the wildflowers too, and have photographed many of them. What you say about books is quite true. There is an old Chassidic tale about the way the students of a great rabbi tried to keep alive the things they learned from him. To paraphrase the story, after studying for some years, I would underline a sentence I wanted to remember… and then later in life, I would put a piece of paper next to the page in the book, so I would find the wisdom easier. And eventually, I made a list of those quotes I wanted to remember… and now I’ve already forgotten where I put the list.

  19. That is some lovely matchboxes!

  20. Lovely collection and some thought-provoking observations on the accumulation of material possessions. I too used to collect matchboxes when I was much younger – I used to see like seeing ones that people gave me from far-flung places. In the end I got rid of them all.

    There is a name for that hobby, by the way: phillumeny (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phillumeny)

  21. I sure wish I had taken Bill’s picture but it was quite a few years back before I was into taking portraits. He would have been a perfect subject as he was strong and kind at the same time. A true man. I would treasure it!

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