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The objects that carried us through 2020
There have been so many words shed on 2020 and the virus, the deepened inequalities, the mounting loss. But as each new headline exhausted our collective ability to describe or feel our alarm, the objects around us took on a greater weight.
A photo of relatives long gone. The pages of an organizer, once full of scheduled engagements now whited out. Lots of homemade bread. Maybe a tchotchke, some miscellaneous item from a junk drawer, imbued with new meaning. A mug reused over and over, marking time as its printed design disappears from too many dishwasher cycles.
These items, these mementos, speak to the grief, dread or joy felt throughout the year, embodying what words cannot say. They might be sources of strength that kept us afloat, seeds of self-care or self-reliance, or maybe even a mirror, an actual mirror, reflecting a tender moment between neighbors.
The depth of history that objects can carry is immense. A photograph of my late father sat on the kitchen table — my new work “desk” — for months. Seeing his arms, outstretched in the photo, is the closest thing to a hug with my family this year. The photo, which will exist longer than my own father’s life, became an anchor of memories.
Throughout the year, the PBS NewsHour spoke with 11 artists and writers about which memento best expressed their experience, an artifact they’d tuck inside a time capsule. Here are some of the mementos we clung to in 2020.