Among my earliest memories is a photo of one of the ships that my dad served on during World War Ii while he was in the U.S. Merchant Marines. It hung just to the right of the front door, the last thing seen when we left the house.
There weren’t a lot of other items on the walls of that first house. For a few years, Mom used to check framed prints out of the library for six months at a time so that she could hang a picture above the sofa which was positioned against the wall with the largest empty area, uninterrupted by windows or doorways. Many of those prints had a religious theme, appropriate since it was under those prints that we sat each morning as Mom read from a family devotions book as part of our preparations for school.
Years later, after each my siblings and I had moved away, what appeared on the walls of my parents’ house changed considerably.
Some items appeared because of the passing of an older member of the family. A large framed photograph of one of my father’s uncles in his World War I uniform covered most of the wall at one side of the hutch in the dining room. This uncle, my father’s namesake, died a few months before my father was born. On the other side of the hutch, a silk-embroidered picture of a building in China hung, an item another of my father’s uncles had brought home from Shanghai where he for nearly 20 years.
Some items were pictures or decorative items they chose, including souvenirs from their travels. But more were gifts from their children: souvenirs we sent them from our travels or that we felt they would appreciate as much as we did.
From that first photograph of my father’s ship to items removed the last day before the house was sold, items on the walls of their home had sentimental, not intrinsic, value. While my mother probably had a specific reason for selecting each of the library-framed items of my early childhood, those stories weren’t obvious. But the story of each of the items on their walls in later years were known to us. And that is true of the objects that adorn the walls of our home as well. Framed photographs of camels and desert scenes, framed post cards of historic or simply picturesque buildings, and framed Bedouin jewelry from a half dozen countries form a large portion of what can be found on our walls, each of them representing one of the countries we have lived and worked in. Paintings – lots of paintings from Moldova and from a time when the prices were so low we didn’t need to ask the cost before selecting six at a time – form another large segment. And let’s not forget the dozen framed posters from the Soviet era that we rescued from being wasted as wrapping paper in the gift store of the hotel where we lived. Each item on our walls has a story. And we love telling them.