What the Native Americans Would Do

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I made the executive decision some time ago that I was going to sell all my earthly possessions in order to be unencumbered when I moved out West. In order to acquire experiences, I would purge my things. Also when I was working at North Star Academy back in the fall we had Native Americans as guest speakers to teach the children about their customs.

I have always been wildly fascinated and appreciative of Native American culture. I think it is so beautiful, poetic and speaks to the kind of life I would like to lead. So when the classroom of children (myself included) got to make friendship bracelets I was pretty jazzed. But here was the stipulation, the woman speaker told the class, these friendship bracelets had to be made with the intent of giving them away. Already I felt overly attached to this bracelet having only slid a few inexpensive plastic colored beads onto my strip of leather.

I wasn’t unfamiliar with friendship jewelry and its purposes. In middle school I was always buying the best friend necklaces that I could give to my bestie so that she and I could proclaim our allegiances to one another. But the thing with those was, there were always two. Usually it was the same necklace but with two sides of a heart split down the middle and one half said best and the other said friend.

My problem with things—all kinds of things—always has been that I immediately attach a memory to the item in question. In this case, I was happily making a bracelet with Native Americans in my beloved classroom full of first graders and learning about a culture I greatly admired. I wanted it for myself!

Then the woman said this next part, which there has been no recovering from since. She said that in Native American culture there wasn’t a word for “mine.”

“Nothing belongs to us,” she said.

I admired them even more. And I vowed then and there to give my bracelet away. As soon as I wore it a whole bunch first, obviously, as it was now filled with Native American memories and good energy. This also became the first stepping stone in my acknowledging to myself that maybe, just maybe I could part with my things after all. They were just things and parting with them didn’t mean I was losing the memory, just the tangible item.

I have read countless stories about individuals who sell all their belongings, maybe even their house, to travel the world, and while I own a whole lot of thrift store treasures, nothing in the way of footing the bill for a yearlong adventure, all my things feel priceless to me. I’ve always wondered how these people did it? In fact every time I try to put a price on anything of mine, I feel like I am giving up animals from a shelter and that I need to do background screenings on the applicants and find the best and most loving homes where my items will be cherished in the way they deserve.

Most of my things have been in storage from when I moved back home from Virginia after a particularly painful breakup. Putting it all in storage was beneficial because I really had no place for most of my furniture and things at the time, and furthermore it felt like I didn’t have to deal with accepting that a life I was bent on having with a person was officially over.

Furniture and boxes of my beautiful things: books, decor, my art collection have all been under lock and key for nearly a year. I recently decided to tackle the removing of said things and the beginning of the purge. I began to deliver old trunks that used to house my vast board game collection to a cousin’s house and put other things away to be sold at my mom’s flea market. The whole day of moving my stuff felt like pure agony. I cried and moved things. And cried some more.

And most of my tears felt like unshakable loss. A loss of things, felt like a loss of self. Who would I be without all this defining memorabilia? All this purging also stirred up uncomfortable reminders of where all this happy furniture used to be placed in a home I shared with my ex. An ex I planned on marrying. Had picked out baby names with. Showed him engagement rings I liked when he asked to see the styles I preferred.

I spotted this fuzzy little deer he had purchased for me two birthdays ago when he took me to see the Luray Caverns in Virginia as a surprise. He told me I was allowed to pick out any treat and I picked out that silly deer. He asked me if I was sure of all the things in the souvenir shop, that the felt deer with plastic horns (clearly made for a child) was the one thing I wanted.

I nodded excitedly. See the thing about that deer was, I had always loved those felt animals when I was a child. I would see the toy horses in the Native American themed souvenir shops that we would stop at on vacation, right after we passed the Mackinac Bridge, but I was never allowed to have them, because they were too expensive and we were just looking. Acquiring the felt deer felt like a win for childhood me and I loved it dearly (no pun intended) and immediately.

It seemed an absolute impossibility that I could part with this deer. The deer was more than plastic and felt. It was my ex. And birthday surprises. And childhood. And murky, dripping caverns of Virginia. It was my love of nature. And happiness. How did the Native Americans do it? Who could this deer ever belong to that would look at it like that?

I didn’t do anything with the deer at the time. I just shut the lid on the box and my feelings and told myself that maybe I could keep it as a small memento of DC. But I also wanted to keep the flea market ring he’d bought me and the patchwork quilt. Could I justify all these reminders when our love had ended? I doubted it and so I let myself part with the ring (my most coveted of the DC possessions) lending it to my sister when she left for Iceland as she confided in me that it was her favorite ring of mine. I told her it too was my favorite ring and that she better come back with it safe and sound on her finger.

I discovered last night, however that DC who let me keep his Netflix password when we broke up, changed it as I couldn’t log in anymore. I know it seems like small bananas but it smells suspiciously like moving on to me and maybe I ought to do the same in regards to the items I still cling to in the way of him.

So Kia can keep the flea market ring. And maybe I will sell the quilt. But the deer… I just don’t know if I can bring myself to get rid of that cheap felt deer. And maybe the Native Americans would understand? I like to think they would. Also I need to talk to them about my blazer collection which I am also having a hard time parting with… I know I have no right to still own a blazer collection as it isn’t 1980 and I am not an extra in the film 9 to 5, but man do I look downright fetching in a blazer.

I think I am pushing my luck though and getting into a murky misinterpretation of what the Native Americans feel is justifiable to hold onto. Alas, I have claimed to be many things, including a lover of Native Americans, furry creatures and new adventures, but letting go easily has never been one of my strong suits. And so still I struggle to hold on when I know, it is time to let go.

 

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A Love Letter… to Zingerman’s

It’s no secret that I am mad over Zingerman’s Delicatessen. I have been for some time now and with good reason. Zingerman’s does it right. All of it. The meats. The cheeses. The bread. Even their employees are full of good will and don’t make me feel bad for wanting to try 17 different cheeses before I inevitably just go buy a sandwich and put myself in a meat coma.

Then I take deep breaths and will myself to go over to the bakery side and treat myself to a small dark roast and macaroon.

No Zingerman’s isn’t paying me to write this. I just am so enamored with Zingerman’s that every time I go there and sink my teeth into my favorite food: the heartily stacked sammy, I make a note to myself to write a love letter to my favorite food establishment in all the land. Hey Zingerman’s, side note—I definitely want you at my wedding. Um, obviously, this is a love letter to you; you’re going to need to be there. Oh, yeah I am actually not getting married. Or engaged. Nor do I have a boyfriend. Or any real prospects per se. But when I have a wedding one day, God willing, I would like you to be a part of the festivities so everyone can nod their understanding that this is what true love is all about. Meat and cheese expertly placed on two pieces of perfect bread, obviously.

With Ann Arbor on the brain today, I thought, hmmm, do I go to Zingerman’s tonight? I have been there kind of a lot lately and am trying to conserve on fundage for my big move. But I feel it’s a disservice to go to Ann Arbor and not see what’s happening between two flaky pieces of sourdough.

With that overly verbose introduction, however, I have a few more words if I may:

Dear Zingerman’s,

I like you. No, it’s more serious than that. I think you know it too. Something has developed between us that is more than mere fondness. I hesitate to say it’s love and speak on your behalf but I feel sure of my feelings and they are in that arena. Every time I visit you, I feel so welcomed. So satisfied. I am surprised by new tastes and surges of pleasure through my entire being. The people that I feel most embody the way I want to live: the French, duh—the connoisseurs of pleasure—would certainly agree with my sentiments regarding you. You have a real panache in all you do and I for one am smitten. Even though every new meal I try simply tops the last, I never let myself get the same thing twice. I force myself to try something new at every turn because I know you’ve never let me down before and why would you start now? Hence why I am loathe to say I even have a favorite sandwich of yours. I can’t even recall which one could be the best. I can only recall feelings of satiated glee with every visit. So naturally I would be very remiss if I didn’t tell you of these feelings. I am not the type of girl that keeps my lips zipped when I am in love. So with a grand and deep well of gratitude I tip my hat to you, Zingerman’s. For your attention to detail in selecting the finest ingredients. For being the best deli around. For being from my wonderful home state of Michigan. For being so tirelessly delicious. And for making my top list of things that make me infinitely joyful.

Yours in utter adoration,

Cassandra Lee Sturos

Cat Pajamas and Champagne

IMG_2582Remember when you were young and your biggest problem was your mom calling you inside before you were ready to come in? That was a major problem of mine too, but my actual biggest problem was getting my next door neighbor, Joel Wisuri to fall in love with me. And my spending every waking moment with him was integral to the hopes of love developing. Come to think of it, getting boys to fall in love with me still seems to be one of my biggest problems. But I digress.

This occurred to me the other day while driving down the dirt road of my youth and passing a gated off area—it has been gated off since childhood, but that didn’t stop us from breaking in anyway and sledding on the smallish hills.  I remembered vividly going to that hill, sleds in tow with Joel and my brother Jordan and being delighted when Joel and I went down in the sled once together and I had to hold onto his waist, to which he didn’t even object. 

He did, however, object to my advances a few years later when I confessed during a game of Truth or Dare that if I had a choice of anyone in the world to marry I’d choose him. My sister (who was in the sixth grade at the time) chose Bruce Willis. I should’ve followed her lead and chosen my celeb crush who was the more conventional Brad Pitt, as Joel ignored me the rest of my high school career for that brazen move. Eh, I always was a dive head first kinda gal.

Joel is now happily married, so clearly it’s terrific that he didn’t listen to me. Also let the record state that if you have a penis, I’m not related to you—well… I did have a crush on my cousin, Spencer when I was in the second grade, but it was prior to my being informed that was frowned upon—and you’ve—no matter how fleetingly—crossed paths with me: I’ve most certainly had a crush on you. So the likelihood that my childhood crush was my match is the same likelihood that I won’t have a crush on the cashier at Bed, Bath and Beyond just because he has a beard and smiled vaguely in my direction. Of course I had a crush on him! Did you hear the beard part? Also I checked for a ring and he didn’t have one. So yeah. The crush is well founded.

My point is that the problem of winning over Joel was hardly a problem at all and in truth my childhood can be described as pretty idyllic. Besides being the oldest of a zillion little brothers and sisters that I helped tend to, I was mostly left to my own devices which were books and planning my grandiose love stories. Before I even moved to Fowlerville and met Joel I had been living in a duplex in Howell where new neighbors were constantly moving in and out of the apartment upstairs.

One family had two girls my age named Jackie and Jessica. The thing is they must’ve been sweet and wholesome girls as I remember sharing a mutual love of horses and my mom let me sleepover upstairs (and my mom has never been keen on sleepovers) frequently. But what I remember more than our propensity to name our future horses, were Jackie and Jessica’s fancy pajamas.

When I would sleep over they would give me a choice of one of their nighties. They had a red one and a white one. Both were lacey and impossibly provocative. This was before I even knew what provocative was, and so all I thought when I saw these fancy lace pajamas were medieval princesses wore these numbers and how cool their mom was to let them sleep in such splendor.

Later I would come to realize that the girls weren’t in possession of medieval princess pajamas. Jackie and Jessica had simply been given their mother’s castoff lingerie. It doesn’t matter though. These pajamas took me to a place that felt decadent and luxurious and beautiful. Again, the only problem here was how to get my parents to buy me lingerie at eight-years-old.

Today? Well besides the fact that I cannot afford lingerie even if I wanted to sleep in it, which I don’t—I have been sleeping in the same pink worn cotton nightshirt with a fat cat on it that says ‘Nutritional Overachiever’ for about a decade now. It has a hole at the bottom and is so beloved that when the shirt eventually falls apart one day I will weep as if I were actually losing a fat cat and not just a cotton nightie—and men still let me put my arms around their waist but then have no interest in dating me. Like childhood, these problems aren’t my real problems at all.

Normally my biggest grievance is my inner tube-esque midsection and even that hardly aggravates me like it used to.

No my real adult problems are far worse than whether or not I look like a medieval princess for bed or bagging a bearded gent, or even minimizing my girth. No these days it’s debilitating self-doubt combined with mountains of debt all while grappling with the realization that life is definitely akin to scaling Everest, and even if you do make it all the way to the top, you probably lost all your toes and are somewhat insane from the ascent.

But here’s the beauty in it all. Sure childhood is ignorant bliss. And yes adulthood nearly drives you to drink. In fact, it begs it of you at every turn. Actually that is one of my favorite parts of adulthood. The access to champagne and fancy beers in frosted mugs. But seriously, I digress yet again.

Yeah adulthood sometimes feels like more than I can handle, but then I remember how sage and terribly cool—if carrying your board game collection in your car and spending more money on coffee than pants makes one cool—I’ve gotten in my old age and how cotton cat pajamas really are way better than negligees and having a love affair with the mountains feels more satisfying to me than a man ignoring me for Sports Center.

Hmmm. Maybe adulthood isn’t so bad after all. Except I have to renew my license plate tabs and call the bank and figure out some student loan issues… Ew. But hey, I can drive to the mountains whenever I feel like and sleep on my trampoline without asking permission so, you win some, you lose some.