Culture, New Start, Second act

Unpacking for the Future

It never fails. Every time I pack my bag to come home from Singapore, I always forget to account for space in my luggage for souvenirs.

You know, the usual culprits we give away — the keychains, tee shirts and trinkets that we hope hold more value in the sentiment of giving than in any actual functional purpose. 

And then, the souvenirs we keep.

The collection of recipe books on Singapore cuisine ended up in the den, but the rest, I’ve stored in the hallway linen closet upstairs, drawers in the guest room, boxes in the basement and probably in the garage, too.

A small grocery bag I earned from collecting 7-Eleven points after a nostalgic splurge of childhood snacks, a polyester Singapore flag still in its original white bag and lots and lots of batik.

Sometimes just fabric with raw edges waiting to be fashioned into something to wear, to lay on, or to be framed. Sometimes, a man’s shirt, a bright green skirt from my sister, a difficult-to-match tablecloth with six matching napkins. I have batik tissue pack covers, batik house slippers, batik-covered trinket boxes, purses, scarves and a pair of two-feet tall batik decorative folding fans.

The idea of a souvenir is to keep as a reminder of a place we’ve visited, a person we know, an event we don’t want to forget. We keep them for the sake of a memory. I know that’s why I have so many batiks. After I moved to the U.S. 30 years ago, Singapore, my birthplace, has been relegated to the box labeled ‘Memories.’

Even the memories made during recent visits end up in this box, needing to be made tangible by the touch of this fabric, still stiff from the starch of creation, the faint smell of the dusty store deep in the seams of the shirt, the phantom brushing of my shoulder by another shopper interested in the tablecloth I had in my hand.

I brought them with us from Ohio because I wanted for them to stay on this journey with me. A part of me believed, that given time and space, the souvenirs will evolve to find their place in my world.

And they did. It happened in a flash of a moment — a click — and my mind reached out for this fabric, stacked on shelves in its new home. A fabric even more tightly woven than quilting cottons, able to filter as high as 80 percent of not just the virus in droplets expelled into the air but also the minute particles released when we so much as exhale. 

 My batik collection became a timely shield, an untapped protection I already had in my reserves ready to be called upon and leaned on. 

In colors and patterns saved and souvenired over my lifetime, the batik fabric emerged in its second act as homemade masks for my husband and me.

Perhaps a reminder that sometimes what we keep from our past, can also serve us in the future.

Want to read new blog articles when I post them? Or get monthly updates on my book? Here’s a way to do it.

* indicates required

I respect your privacy and will not share my list with anyone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *