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Sometimes Words Are Not Enough

April 7, 2010

I love words, but I also know their limitations. I can tell you about Ewok ice skates or the Beatles’ “Flip Your Wig” game or my Saddam Hussein dart board, but actually seeing them brings them to life in the mind. I’ve been thinking about this as I reluctantly create a PowerPoint® presentation to accompany an exhibit I call The Stories in the Stuff. A slide from the show provides a glimpse into my eclectic collecting.

Bambi meets a pair of zebras.

As part of this exhibit, I provide lots of toys–small evocateurs–that can bring to mind memories of childhood. I invite pARTicipation, asking those who attend the event to write their stories on a tag, attach the tag to their chosen evocateur, and hang the tagged toy on a shared structure.

Toys and books from childhood are powerful. They return us to times when the future seemed limitless and possibility was endless. In The House of Stuff, where I live, and The Place Filled with Things that Make Me Smile, where I work, I surround myself with such evocateurs. When my students finish their first course with me, I ask them to choose something meaningful from a basketful of toys, hoping that seeing it will make them smile in the days and years to come.

What makes you smile? No matter what you’re busy doing–school or work or whatever–this is an important question to ask yourself.

When the dog bites. When the bee stings. When I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad. • “My Favorite Things,” Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, The Sound of Music

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