My relationship with Sam is as old as my relationship with New York City. Somewhere on my phone there exists a photo of us posing on the stoop of our old Harlem apartment on 113th and Lenox. That place was our first anchor in a city that boasted endless possibility and dreams. It was our landing pad, far flung from the rural Midwestern upbringing that marked our respective girlhoods. It was a space where we laughed, cried, cooked, ate, drank, dreamt, and worked. There was the creaking floor, the laundromat down the block, the Masjid next door, Central Park North and the 2 train a stone’s throw away. When I search my memories of that place—of Sam in that place--I cannot remember her without also remembering her necklace.
In truth, I cannot conjure her in my memory or my imagination without the sterling silver airplane hanging at her breastbone being as much a part of her as her short brown hair, her playful walk, or her often incredulous voice.
In this episode of “The Things We Carry,” one of my oldest friends, Samantha, talks about a talisman she received from her beloved and dearly departed Aunt when she was twelve. Her aunt had gifted it to her in advance of Sam’s first airplane ride alone from Kansas to Washington D.C., a trip that forever changed her outlook and dreams of the future. In listening, I hope you hear back what I love most about Sam—her innate capacity to be both surly and vulnerable in the same breath.
After over twenty years of nearly-continuous wear, the airplane has become an extension of Sam, like her hair or her arm, she names. It is that part of her that reminds her to dream, even when dreaming feels impossibly luxurious. The talisman and Samantha will be irrevocably connected for the rest of her lifetime. “It is the ultimate symbol of who I am,” she says.
“The Things We Carry” is an audio series produced by Supriya Kotagal Wheat. It chronicles our relationship with beloved objects, heirlooms, and talisman. The name of the series is inspired, in part, by Tim O’Brien’s “the Things They Carried,” a series of short stories about American soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War.