Flight of nostalgia

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What objects, memorabilia and mementoes do immigrants take with them when they move to their adopted home? If you would like to share your own story here or know someone that we can profile, please contact:  [email protected]

Text and photos by MARITES N. SISON

I’ve moved around so much that I have pieces of “me” in many people’s homes by now: objects I’ve either given away or sold for a song.

I’m only reminded of material goods past when I see photographs of them, which always leave me sighing wistfully. An intricately carved antique mirror I had bought from an author and respected intellectual went to a dear friend. An antique armoire my daughter inherited from her paternal grandmother is with another loved one, my sister. I’m consoled by the fact that at least they live in good homes.

Objects carry memories and so it’s never easy to part with them, especially those that remind us of people, places and times we cherish. Storage space businesses thrive because people like to hold on to things that validate lives once lived.

But when you have to move 8, 206 miles – the distance between Manila and Toronto, according to the Distance Calculator – there’s hardly any room in the luggage for sentimentality.  My tight budget allowed me to only ship about six 18” x 18” x 24”  boxes for two people and so I had to put on my no-attachment-to-things armour in order to pare down. I also had to remind myself that unlike refugees who often flee terror with only the clothes on their backs, we were moving on our own terms and with some of our worldly goods to boot.

So what did an immigrant like me bring to my adopted home? A lot of practical stuff and reminders of our old home, it turns out. Family photographs are a given and I have them all. The rest are an amalgam of books, prints, trinkets, clothing, jewelry, my daughter’s baby clothes and childhood drawings, art, and kitsch whose significance are known only to me.

Years, decades and centuries from now I don’t know where they will end up. My daughter will likely keep some of them and I hope her descendants will, too. They shall be a small reminder that we came from a land that, like Canada, has great, brave writers and great, brave books, creative artisans and crazy dreamers, and yes, a warm, lovely people who I will always hold dear.

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1 Comment

  • October 30, 2013


    “What a great faculty memory is, how awesome a mystery! It is the mind, and this is nothing other than my very self.” – Augustine

    “You have to begin to lose your memory, if only in bits and pieces, to realize that memory is what makes our lives. Life without memory is no life at all, . . . Our memory is our coherence, our reason, our feeling, even our action. Without it, we are nothing.” – Luis Buñuel

    I guess,that’s the reason why we all get souvenirs wherever we go….. or do you?