I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing. Almost 15 years ago I left some of my things with my aunt when I went off to Shanghai to study. I recently got them back and was shocked to see a wicker basket among the items I had deemed, then, too valuable to let go. It seems I really, really liked it. So much so that I bought one just like it about two years ago, part of the décor in an apartment I had listed on Airbnb. It came in a set of various sizes then, and now I have them sprinkled about the house. I didn’t even remember I’d bought the same thing before until I was reunited with the one I’d left behind at my aunt’s place.
Once I’d gotten over the shock of the wicker basket, I eagerly rummaged through the heavy-duty box of my belongings to catch a glimpse of who I was when I packed it. That box had so many stories to tell. It’s gray; the same color as the ones I’ve bought since I came home in July. Nestled inside were notebooks and audio tapes from my almost 10 years as a journalist at Jamaica Observer. And there was a battered and rusty tin can stuffed with IDs and passes from events I’d covered over the years: Fidel Castro’s state visit in 1998, G15 Summit in 1999 when I was dying from the flu and the pepper in a hastily eaten patty made my throat start to close up and I had to get a shot from the medical clinic at Half Moon Hotel. I don’t remember much about the Caricom/Canada Summit in 2000 but during the Queen’s visit in 2002 I recall sneaking above the dining area and resisting the urge to break the rules and take a photo of her eating. And oh yes, I remember those years of bleaching (as in going without sleep, not the skin pigment alteration) during Sumfest. I remember the joy with which Beenie Man took the stage, ‘sexy as can be’ Shaggy, raw Lady Saw, the super talented Alicia Keys belting out a song at the piano, energetic Elephant Man swinging from the rigging that held up the stage lights, and catching a glimpse of Beyoncé’s roots under her weave. I also remember the rapture of listening to a very attractive man as he read sections of his work at Calabash Literary Festival, as well as the comfort of a cool breeze on my skin during Jazz and Blues Festival which had such a different vibe from Sumfest. Among the pieces of laminated plastic, each a piece of my history, I also found cards for hotel rooms in The Bahamas (1999) and Shanghai (early 2000s), the Ritz Carlton Montego Bay where I had my first massage, and oh that prized possession: a Sandals Membership Card!
This week has been a journey down memory lane in more ways than one. The 18 boxes that held my ‘most recent’ precious items arrived from Shanghai via Miami. They got here much later than I thought they would have when I shipped them off at the end of June, but the time apart has made our reunion that much sweeter. The warm glow that I got from rereading goodbye notes and making space in my new life for gifts from friends and coworkers nudged me awake at 4 am the next day, grateful for the WeChat app that makes it so easy to reconnect with my not-so-distant past.
It took me two days to finally unpack because I savoured the feel of almost every item, letting it tell me its story. Oh the joy of having my pots and pans! And once again I am confronted with sameness: during my annual Christmas visits home I had been unconsciously furnishing my home in Montego Bay with the same style of dishes, the same glass pots, the same Chinese style woks that I had in Shanghai.
It seems I have a type; I know what I like… at least when it comes to household items.
I’m a marketing and communications professional with almost a decade in journalism. After more than 14 years of living and working in China, I happily came home to Jamaica in summer of 2019. In this weekly column I share snippets of what it’s like seeing Jamaica — and sometimes the rest of the world — through my eyes.
By Charmaine N. Clarke