I have a lamp that was made by my college roommate when he was in junior high. If you followed that line, then you can begin to imagine how long it is possible for me to hold on to things. This is especially notable because so much of what I owned back in Colorado was jettisoned when I made the jump to hyperspace: California. Most of the furniture that I owned, acquired as a college student and bachelor with precious little taste. The lamp was a relic from those bygone days of yore.
Why did I keep it? That's a little harder to explain. I didn't take wood shop, and therefore had no specific attachment to its beginnings. Maybe there was some sort of envy connected to it, since it was a great beast of a thing, turned on a lathe and then polished and stained to a deep red finish. It is most definitely a link to all those apartments in which I lived, eating TV dinners, watching movies and reading Stephen King. Why I would romanticize that portion of my life? Because it was so tranquil and happy? Because it was a time of great personal growth? Because it was so very different from my current existence?
I believe I held on to that lamp because I wanted a piece of something from that era. Something substantial that wasn't a story of beer-soaked debauchery that ended in embarrassment and a blinding headache the next day. I wanted to capture a little of that time when eating over the sink was an option. No. I wanted to have a keepsake from a bygone era, when lamps came from wood shop and not from IKEA. Something like that. I have only used a lathe once in my life, and the product of my labors was a cone that I tore out of a good sized piece of pine. It didn't have any electricals in it. It was just a hunk of wood that became part of a very lame sculpture project. Did I mention that I never took a wood shop course? Out of respect to all those who work with their hands and don't tend to break their friends' power tools, I hold on to that lamp as a lasting memento of a time when you had to make that choice: shop class or studio art. I took the art classes. I never made ashtrays or end tables. I was in my twenties before I ever spent any quality time with drills and belt sanders and the like. That lamp reminds me of this void in my life.
Currently, it is part of the decor of our basement: the lounge where my son and his friends set up their video game contests on Friday nights. On Friday nights when his buddies are finished with their chores on the backstage crew and all their drills and nail guns and table saws, they come piling in and sit down next to that lamp and all its history. When the light is on, it looks like home.