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My Wall of Things

Jess Lahey
Jess Lahey
I posted a tweet about taking down then re-assembling my office Wall of Things around my new Simone Giertz Every Day Calendar (item 81) this week and readers had questions.
Lots of them.
Let’s do this in installments, shall we? There are, after all, 184 items to cover.
We should probably start with the origin story of The Wall. If you look down at item 153, you will see a photo of the original wall. My wall is a mere imitation (interpretation?) of my father’s original. My dad (Bob Potts) worked as an industrial designer in a renovated straw hat building in Medfield, MA. His wall was huge, covered with all sorts of things he’d collected on his travels all over the world. I always knew I’d have a wall like his someday, and when it came time to create it, my father gave me some of the things that used to reside on that wall in the straw hat factory.
My dad is damn cool. Here’s an interview he did with Kevin Kelly (founding executive editor of Wired) and Mark Frauenfelder (EIC of Make and co-owner of BoingBoing) on the Cool Tools podcast a while back.
Back to my wall.
Item 1. I have had this lobster claw for many, many years, it’s one of my most cherished possessions and yet I’m horrified every time I look at it. We ate this lobster when I was a little kid and yes, h/she was enormous. The best way to age a lobster is by counting their eye stalk rings (really) but another method (who knows how reliable) is to calculate based on weight. Each pound in weight equals about seven years of age. This lobster, given the size of his crusher claw (lobsters have two different claws, a crusher and a pincher) he had to have been at least fifteen pounds which could mean s/he was likely over 100 years old. I KNOW. I know.
Item 2. This is a picture my father took of my gorgeous mother, Nancy, outside my childhood home in Massachusetts as she carried groceries into the house from our brown (and white and black if you count the mismatched fenders) Chevy Vega. My mom is the best of moms.
Item 3. A common sentiment I convey to people who ask me for advice on how to help kids be their best, most fulfilled selves is, “I wish I had a magic wand” to solve all the problems and protect all the kids. So now I have five of them. I’m a big purger of stuff, and despite all evidence to the contrary, not a sentimental person. That said, I could not bear to get rid of my kids’ Harry Potter wands, so I put them up on my wall. Note items 3, 6, 24, 40 and 41. According to the Harry Potter Wiki, 3 belongs to Sirius Black, 6 is Severus Snape’s, 24 is Bellatrix Lestrange’s second wand, 40 is Tom Riddle’s, and 41 is Albus Dumbledore’s. Forgive me for any identification errors, it’s been a while since our family was in the grip of full-on Harry Potter obsession.
Item 4. This was a gift from my father about twenty years ago and sadly, it has been gnawed by a few of my dogs. It used to be a lot prettier around the edges. He thinks he got it at a junk shop in Jeffersonville, Indiana.
Item 5. I bought this slingshot so I can bean the dogs when they do loud things while I’m podcasting, being interviewed, or doing a virtual speaking event. The balls are felted wool and super soft, so it just gives them something other to focus on than the UPS delivery person or the book I left on the floor. I got mine at a the Stone Mill Public Market in Middlebury, VT but there are lots of different versions available on Etsy.
Item 6. See item 3.
Item 7. Edward Hopper’s “Corn Hill,” on display at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas. I spent every summer of my early life on Corn Hill in Truro, Massachusetts (that’s the outer bit of Cape Cod, just before Provincetown) because my parents’ best friend owned one of the houses. You will hear more about him when we get to item 102.
Item 8. My older son, Ben (23), learning to walk.
Item 9. I have two of these chicks, a gift from longtime family friend Lark Carrier. She’s a picture book author and illustrator and gives the best gifts ever. This poor chickie has a crushed face and its intact sibling usually lives on our fireplace mantel.
Item 10. An eagle door knocker. I’m sure this came from my father but neither of us remember how or when it fell into our possession.
Item 11. Half of a hinge, I think? Like the door knocker, this likely came out of a box of odds and ends my dad liked and never had a use for.
Item 12. My friend, bestselling romance author and #AmWriting podcast co-host Sarina Bowen gave me this piece of paper on top of a present a few years ago. It says “You can do anything but not everything” and I think that’s a worthy sentiment to hang on an office wall.
Item 13. I did a speaking event in Zionsville, Indiana a few years ago and they sold paper tickets that read, “Jessica Lahey Live” and it made me feel like an actual rock star. My dad loved it so much he framed the ticket for me.
Item 14. Last spring, I rescued some cardinal chicks from certain death after their nest fell out of our lilac bush in a cold rainstorm. I told the story as it unfolded in this Twitter thread. Two chicks made it and went on to fledge. Since then, I get cardinal things. See item 149. This particular cardinal thing was a card the cardinal babies sent me with some help from my dad. See item 27 for the inside of the card, penned by the cardinal babies via my father.
Item 15. This painting, “School Rules” by William Holbrook Beard (1824 - 1900) lives at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. It’s one of the best museums I’ve ever been to and I spent most of my time there gasping and pointing as I recognized some of my favorite artworks. Thank you, Alice Walton for creating such an incredible museum. Yes, Walton as in WalMart.
Item 16. A sticker from Jenny Lawson’s bookstore, the Nowhere Bookshop. I can’t wait for the pandemic to abate so I can visit in person, but until then, I will read selections from the Fantastic Strangelings and the Happy Endings book clubs.
Item 17. A portrait of my father as a young man.
Item 18. Wild turkey feathers I found in the woods behind my house.
Item 19. A wood and lead (?) stamp. All of my stamps came from my dad and are likely also visible in the picture of the wall he built in his office. I love them but they are difficult to use because the metal does not squish and transfer ink as easily as rubber stamps do. So on the wall they go.
Item 20. Ooof long story I will make very short. My friend, Mary Moore Parham made and sent me this postcard sometime before she died, likely in 1997 or 1998. I met Mary Moore on my first day of law school and she was…magic. For a visual, see item 110, the picture my father took of us at my law school graduation. The scholarship I fund through my work at Sana at Stowe, a drug and alcohol detox and rehab in Stowe, Vermont, was established in her honor.
That’s it for this installment. Stay tuned for items 21-40!
Oh, and the wall color is Benjamin Moore Aura 1636 “Providence Blue.” So very many people asked!
Stay safe and warm this week,
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Jess Lahey
Jess Lahey @jesslahey

I write about all kinds of stuff but if you are into the writing life, the woods of Vermont, life with dogs, or my work in child welfare and substance use prevention, then you are in the right place.

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