“It is so essentially human, this desire to locate our important mental data outside of ourselves.” — Alyssa Pelish, “Safety in Objects”
I have always been anxious over heirlooms. Having already lost the Kodachrome portraits to my uncle, I’m afraid I will be cheated out of a wedding dress or a latke recipe. As progeny of recent immigrants, I can’t help but lament the lack of history in our things. I envy my peers whose family tree diagrams bleed off the edges of the page, whose estates date back through wars and revolutions, filled with the stories of a bloodline. How am I supposed to know my past without the records?
In this era, it feels like a day cannot pass without photographic documentation on Facebook, spontaneous revelations tweeted, and salacious courtship texted. Despite all this, inboxes disappear and hard drives crash. It may be rooted in nostalgia, but there’s something deeply unnerving to me about the fact that I will not have shoeboxes of Polaroids on the top shelf of the closet for my children to rummage through, but instead dusty discs full of data in obsolete formats. I’m having a hard time believing that I will remember anything without the tangible. Thus, when I read Alyssa Pelish’s piece over on 3 Quarks Daily, who takes our reliance on the souvenir from Proust to Blade Runner to the iPad, I am tempted to print it out, glue it into my notebook, and save it as best I know how.