Monday, August 31, 2009

When Things Come in Pretty Packages

A few months ago I had the chance to go on a 800-Lira shopping spree at one of my favourite shops, Chakra. Chakra sells organic cotton and bamboo bed and bath linens, rounding out their collection with pretty candles and lotions. It's fabulously expensive, but not only did I have a gift certificate, everything in the store was 30% off!

I was under pressure (self-imposed) because I was leaving for a month-long trip back to Canada the next day, but didn't want to miss this great sale; furthermore, I had to use the entire 800 Lira at once! Most Turkish shops haven't yet embraced the idea of gift certificates, and the poor salesgirls were pushed by my zealous girlfriends into accepting their money. (I later found out that the salesgirls had rung up a fake slew of items, which they then 'returned' when I cashed in the 'gift certificate' my girlfriends had received in exchange for their money. After all that confusion, they weren't going to split the cheque and let me spend half of it on another occasion! They'd been unable to say no to my friends, but they did to me.)

All this to say that it's only now, almost two months after that shopping spree, that I'm opening one of the packages of bedsheets. And my goodness, it was hard to do! I didn't want to spoil the pretty packaging! And should I keep the pretty plastic case the sheets came in for future storage? You can see how my mind works ... as if I were part of the generation who survived the depression or the war! I might need this later.

Alas, I regretfully attribute my compulsion to hoard to plain old obsessiveness. Perhaps I am frustrated with my own lack of creative output, so that I want to cling to other examples of prettiness. Regardless, I've always been inclined to save, to keep things in their original form, at the expense of my enjoyment of them. When I was about five, I received a plastercine set: a red butterfly, and two or three other colourful creatures, each set into their own niche recessed in a plastic tray. I eagerly removed the red butterfly and started to play with it, leaving the other colours for another day. But when I tried to return the red clump of plastercine to its butterfly form, I realized to my horror that I'd never be able to return it to its original state of perfection! I think it took me weeks before I dared use the other colours!

My father has five matronly sisters who are now in their 70s and 80s; but for some reason I remember them from twenty years ago, looking and acting just as they do now -- loving, jolly, and so formal it was always like they were from another world. (They're European, I used to explain to my friends.) For some reason, they always gave me pretty boxes of assorted scented soaps -- Crab Tree & Evelyn, a set of colourful balloon-shaped soaps, soaps that looked like fruit. Too precious to actually use, I tucked them away into what quickly became the very fragrant drawer of my bedside table. Years later, I was doing a major cleanup and was horrified to discover all these unused soaps, whose enjoyment I had been missing out on. And they didn't even smell anymore!

I like to think that while my old inclinations remain, I no longer succumb to them; all those soaps were the last missed opportunity. The new bedsheets are now on my bed, the plastic case in the garbage, the cardboard insert in the recycling bin.

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