(I think I’m stealing this idea from Sarah. I seem to remember her doing something like it a few years ago, though I can’t seem to find it on her site. Thanks, Sarah.)
My first waitressing job was at a doomed restaurant/bar in a suburb of Houston. It was run by a man who had never run a restaurant or bar before, and it was in a neighborhood where a children’s menu (which we didn’t have) was more important than an ample scotch selection (which we did). I only worked there three months before we had to shut down to make way for a Wings N Things. I blame this job for my dislike of chain restaurants.
I’d become quite attached to the restaurant in my brief time there—the classic-rock jukebox, the collection of old beer cans on a shelf along the ceiling, the caricatures of employees and regular customers hanging on the walls. Two weeks before we closed I was promoted to bartender, so I spent the last night we were open holding back tears while getting drunk on bizarre cocktails of my own invention. “I call this one The Thing That Devoured the Bronx Pub and Grill,” I said, downing a mixture of Chambord, Midori, and blue CuraÁao. “Does anyone else want a White Bread Ate Manhattan?”
Before closing the doors for the last time, the owner let us take whatever we wanted off the walls. I took two things: a framed martini-themed poster and this gigantic Bass mirror. I’m still upset I didn’t remember to take my own caricature.
My ex-boyfriend Andy’s mom was a frequent shopper at weekend garage sales. Andy and I had only been dating for a few months when she started to buy things she thought I might like. I’m quite narrow and particular in my tastes, so I was surprised when she turned out to be pretty good at picking things out for me. I still have two shirts she bought, and this tea set marked the beginning of my small teapot collection.
Andy’s mom was very generous and thoughtful, so much so that it made me feel guilty sometimes. I’d do a few loads of laundry at their house one night, and the next morning I’d wake up to find it all perfectly folded in the basket. No matter how many times I told her not to do it, she always folded my laundry anyway.
Andy had one brother and no sisters, and I always suspected that his mom folded my laundry and bought me things at garage sales because she enjoyed having a girl around the house.
In the last few years of my grandmother’s life, she began to give her things away. She had a lot of china and other glass knick-knacks, and every time my parents or I went for a visit, we’d come back with a few pieces from her collection. For most of the pieces, she’d write a little note in her spindly handwriting with the date and place she acquired it. This bowl is my favorite, but unfortunately I don’t have the note anymore.
In February of my senior year of high school, I dated a guy who worked in the courtesy booth at the grocery store where I was a cashier. He was a freshman in college and much cooler than me, and I was surprised he asked me out in the first place. We’d only been out a few times when Valentine’s Day came around, and I worried about it for days beforehand. I’d always thought that Valentine’s Day was kind of stupid, with its standard gifts of flowers and chocolate and jewelry, but I didn’t know how to tell him that. He was the first guy I’d ever dated on Valentine’s Day, and I didn’t want to mess things up by doing something wrong. By the time Valentine’s Day arrived and he was at the door to pick me up for dinner, I was terrified.
When I opened the door, he handed me a little box. Oh, shit! I thought. He got me jewelry! What am I supposed to do? “I didn’t figure you were too into the whole Valentine’s Day thing,” he said, “but I wanted to get you a little something, and I thought you might like this.” I opened the box, and there on a little bed of cotton was a small glass paperweight. It was beautiful and thoughtful and not too weird at all. I couldn’t believe he had managed to find something so perfect.
We broke up three weeks later, but not because of the paperweight.
I’ve had this wooden carving of my name since I was a kid, but I have no idea where it came from. I asked my dad about it over Thanksgiving and he said that an old coworker of his might have made it, but he’s not too sure either.
On the bottom of this turkey-shaped cologned bottle, there’s a little sticker that says “Avon Wild Turkey.” It sat on my dad’s side of the counter in my parents’ bathroom for years. When I was little I’d go into the bathroom, take off the turkey’s head, and unscrew the cap to smell the cologne inside. My dad never, ever wore cologne, so I always wondered why he had it. Did he live the cologne-splashing life before my sister and I came along?
Before my parents moved to St. Louis, my dad asked me if I would look through the stuff they were giving away to see if there was anything I wanted. I found this cologne bottle in the pile, and asked my dad why he ever had it in the first place. I don’t remember what he said.
Just before I moved out of my parents’ house, I found this poster folded inside an old bartending guide in the liquor cabinet. My dad told me he didn’t even know it was there, and of course I could keep it if I wanted. I’ve hung it up in every bathroom I’ve had since. The copyright date on it is 1972, and the instructions at the bottom are for how to make tequila and Tang with ice in a Mason jar. According to this poster, Montezuma is the brave, bold tequila.
When I went to Atlanta in 2004, Chris and Kelly and I took a tour of Turner Field. They gave us these Eddie Mathews bobbleheads for free as we were leaving. Chris said that he planned to hang his upside-down next to his television so that the Braves would lose and the Astros would win. He also spat in the Braves dugout during the tour for good measure. Eddie’s bat broke off a few years ago, and I’ve never been able to glue it back on. Sorry, Eddie.
During the month I spent in London in 2001, I ate Nutella and jelly sandwiches for lunch every day. I was going to eat Nutella anyway (hello?), and the jelly was easily stolen from the refectory, so I figured I may as well make a lunch out of it. At the time, Nutella was sold in Simpsons-themed collectible jars with free magnets in the lids. I loved Nutella and I loved the Simpsons and I loved London, so this made me very happy.
I got my nose pierced while I was in London. When I told the guy behind the counter at Metalmorphosis that I hadn’t had lunch yet, he made me go eat something before they would pierce my nose. I felt kind of stupid eating a Nutella sandwich on the sidewalk outside a piercing place, but it had to be done.
The first time I went to Europe, in the summer of 1996, my friends and I bought a big bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream from a liquor store in Madrid. When we walked in and asked for Bailey’s, the shopkeeper pretended to think we said “bailar,” the Spanish word for dance, and he pantomimed dancing behind the counter. I can’t remember why we thought Bailey’s was so great, but we were eighteen so we didn’t know much about alcohol. We drank the whole thing and were disappointed that we didn’t get drunk.
“Do you feel anything yet?”
“Me either. Dammit.”
My friend Lauren’s mother had a whole box of these Bailey’s mugs in her kitchen. She never used them or even looked at them, so Lauren stole one and gave it to me as a gift. I’d have felt guilty about it, but Lauren’s mother was not very nice.
My friends Trina and Kelly used to work in the primate area at the Houston zoo. This was awesome for me because whenever I went to visit, they would take me back to the feeding area and other places that regular visitors weren’t allowed to go. I got to meet a bunch of orangutans and a baboon and a gibbon.
The zoo did this fundraising campaign where they would get the orangutans to make paintings, which they would then auction off to benefit various primate causes. For Christmas one year, Kelly gave the orangs some blue and orange paint and a canvas and had them make this painting for me.
Andy did these two paintings. He gave them to me unsigned, but I made him sign them so I could tell when they were right-side up.
In my life so far, I’ve had no interest whatsoever in getting my own Christmas tree. I live by myself in a small apartment with a tiny, curious dog, so I’d rather enjoy other people’s Christmas trees, thank you. But I have exactly one Christmas ornament—a glass pickle that lives on this lamp switch all year round. I couldn’t resist buying it from Hendley market in Galveston a few years ago. It’s a pickle, for God’s sake.
I can’t remember my life without these refrigerator magnets. My parents gave them to me when I got my first apartment, since I loved them so much when I was little. Usually I’m not a fan of such gratuitous branding, but apparently I make exceptions for jelly jar magnets, alcohol paraphernalia, and the Simpsons.
There’s very little in my house that I’m not attached to sentimentally. I keep trying to convince myself that I should start decorating with things that are more almost-30-years-old and less OMG-my-first-apartment-rules! but I can’t seem to bring myself to do it. Maybe the fact that my apartment is an ode to my childhood and twenties is a little bit sad, but I don’t care. I’m comfortable here.
(The set has more photos.)