And when her mother, my grandmother, passed away she brought back a tiny treasure trove of silver spoons and enamel cups once drunken out of by her uncles when they were mere tots, and other nice things. All to be placed next to crystal wine carafes (never filled with wine), porcelain vases (never filled with flowers) and souvenirs of Caribbean Cruises, stuck in time behind those glass paned doors.
Yet I peep into those cabinets and don't see collectibles, nor do I see memories. I see props. Through the eyes of a food blogger I see a fabulous choice of props at my fingertips if I only dare pull open those door, slowly, gently, and lift out, much like pick-up-sticks, mikados, a teaspoon here, a cake knife there, sugar tongs and miniature silver candy trays from amongst the breakables. Wrap each in cloth, t-shirts and socks, and slide them into a waiting suitcase to be carried across the ocean and home.
It may have been the hardest day of my life and surely the saddest. My heart had been wrenched out of my chest, grief-stricken, and I risked being swallowed up whole, pulled into that black space of pain and sadness. Blinded by my tears. My son, young and insouciant, or so it seemed, saw my distress and came to me, put his arm around me and propped me up. He supported me like a crutch, holding my weight as I leaned heavily into him, propped me up and walked me slowly towards the gravesite under the hot September sun where we would bury someone I loved more than all the world.
Chin propped in my cupped hands, I listened to him utter the words, barely perceptible, words weaving in and out through the sounds of a wine bar, the clatter of knives and forks, the clinking of glasses, the bustle of bodies, screeching of chairs across tile, the buzz of voices. His own finally reached my ears, murmurs between unimportant obstacles of noise. I focused, listening to the generosity of his language, taking in the light from his eyes and the rest was forgotten, the flow of noise around me merely a prop.
Propped up on one elbow, lying stretched out on his bed, the early morning sun spread across the sheets in a haze. He reiterated his declaration, hesitant but deliberate. His words mere props, like diamonds and roses, his look, his body language said it all. Propped up against the cushions watching tv in our ninth home together, I stare at the man who sat across the tiny table in that wine bar so many years ago. Our home is a mishmash of memories and objects, framed paintings by our toddler sons propped against one wall, camera tripod, umbrellas and brooms propped against another, mere props of the play that is our life.
I have become his prop, or so he teases me, his trophy wife. Yet I know that in truth I prop him up as he needs, prop him up when he stumbles, support him when he doubts, carry him along whether or no he asks. I prop him up as he does me.
We moved into this apartment with twice as many objects, books, things, a collection of props as we had room for. And boxes of props, dishes and platters, cutlery for an army, tea sets and pitchers than rarely saw the light of day except as props. Packets of plastic straws and wooden forks, Christmas balls and decorations (although we do not celebrate), antique spoons I, frankly, would be afraid to eat with, curious things I no longer remember where they came from. You understand. Props.
I am well propped.
"You can easily get rid of half of that stuff!" he exclaimed, hands propped up on his hips. "Do you really need it all? There is no room!" And so I found room, sacrificing non-props, claiming cabinet space inch by inch, adding shelves to the living room wall unit and squeezing it all in. My photo props.
Curiously, I use less and less of these props when I shoot. I am uncomfortable with props as if trying to shoot too many people or dress myself in someone else's clothes, someone else's life. But I do peep into the cabinets and stare at, ogle, coddle my props on a regular basis. I love them.