The Pockets of Someone You Love
I hold on to anything that will remind me of my kids’ carefree childhood days one day when I’m old and feeling melancholy.
Alexander’s pocket are an endless source of boyhood treasures. Nuts and berries and braid and a fishing bobber—Alexander doesn’t even fish. All of these objects came out of his pockets and into a box in our laundry room—awaiting my camera.
We have a little cardboard box in our laundry room with Alexander’s name on it. Whenever we find something interesting in the pockets of his dirty clothes we throw it in the box. We’ve been doing it for more than two years now. It’s turned into the most beautiful, seven(and eight, and nine)-year-old boy, treasure trove. It’s priceless.
The contents of someone’s pockets or purse or backpack say so much about them. Among the lego people and the toy handcuffs are screws and nails and hooks and chains—my son is such a little builder. It’s difficult to imagine that he isn’t going to grow up and be some kind of mad-inventor engineer. And one day, when we look back at the symbols of his childhood, we will have a wonderful portrait of a person without the person.
You could obviously do this with anyone. As I write, I’m regretting that I never photographed the stuff my dad carried around in his pockets for years. To the day he died, he had the same coin purse and little Swiss Army knife I gave him 30 years ago. (I’ve owned and lost at least ten Swiss Army knives in the same period.) My dad’s pocket stuff would be instantly recognizable to and a wonderful photograph for all of my siblings.
Here are just a few of the items that were found in the pockets of Abraham Lincoln on the night he was murdered. They say so much about the everyday simplicity of a great man.
Abraham Lincoln’s pockets were full of stuff when he was killed at Ford’s Theater. He had a watch fob, a button, a pocket knife—I love that, a handkerchief with his name on it, a wallet, confederate currency, an eyeglass cleaner, and reading glasses with a case. All of these items are lovingly stored at the Library of Congress. How can you not love a president who carries a pocket knife?
Perhaps my favorite depiction of precious kid’s stuff was in the credits of the wonderful movie version of To Kill A Mockingbird. A camera follows a marble as it rolls over the pocket treasures of Jem and Scout in a way that is simultaneously heartbreaking and sweet when you put all of the pieces of the puzzle together at the end of the film. Here’s another video of the creator of the credits commenting on how he did it. I assure you, both videos are fascinating and inspirational. Many film buffs consider the credits of To Kill A Mockingbird to be among the best film credits ever—and they’re nothing more than beautiful black and white photography of crayons, a cigar box, and stuff a lot of people think is junk.
You certainly don’t have to have a box full of objects to make this idea work. It could be something as simple as your mother’s reading glasses on her favorite book. The idea is to capture, preserve, and say something about the person you love without taking a picture of them.