Posted by Victoria | Filed under Victoria
For many years my parents have lugged one particular old, decrepit, apparently useless suitcase around with them on their many moves. The suitcase lost its handle when I was a baby, at some point during a 26-hour flight from Papua New Guinea, where they then lived, to England, where my dad is from. They discovered the broken handle on the escalator from King’s Cross tube station up to the surface, when my dad tried to lift it at the top of the flight. Apparently, everyone politely stood to the side while it bounced its way all the way down — and that escalator is one of the longest in the London Underground system.
But that was back before it became the ‘world’s largest clutch purse’ (as my mum calls it), when it was still being used for its original purpose. That doesn’t explain why my parents still have it some 28 years and fourteen cross-country (and cross-ocean) moves later.
It’s quite simple. It’s the print suitcase.
You see, my dad is a keen artist and collector, but, as I’m sure everyone here understands, couldn’t always afford to have all the works — original prints mostly — he bought framed when he got them. So they went into the suitcase for later. Later started to come a few years ago (coincidentally, when all us girls had finally moved out?); we’d come home on visits to discover some new-to-us work was hung on the walls. These were usually not new; they came from Papua New Guinea or northern Canada; but they hadn’t been out before.
I’ve been starting my own print suitcase. I don’t have an actual suitcase at the moment (perhaps I should ask my parents for theirs, if they’ve finally finished framing them all — we joke that my dad kept the local framer in business through the recession — though I’m not sure how many more moves that suitcase will handle), but I do have a small but growing collection of pieces I can’t quite afford to frame just yet. But one day. They’ll go in the One Day House.
I buy art work not just because my parents do, but because it’s a large part of what makes a place ‘home’ for me. When you grow up in fourteen different places, the markers of ‘home’ aren’t tied to the physical houses. Most of it has to do with family, of course, but the tangible evidence of home for me is in the art work, in the fact that we always have this one picture of copper beech leaves at the head of the dining room table, that we have carvings from Papua New Guinea and a few soapstone pieces from the Arctic.
When I moved out into a proper, non-student-ghetto apartment, I started to collect a few pieces of my own. I also asked my parents for a couple of the PNG works, just a couple, so that I could overlap my family home with the new home on my own. (Who says you can’t have just one home? It’s probably easier if you’re not thinking in terms of an actual house, which is obviously rather more singular in nature!) They are markers of where I’ve lived, what I’ve done, places that have marked me.
Home. Made up of a few choice pieces of art, a suitcase holding the promise of future homes — well, and my books, but that’s a topic for another day.