A wry and unsentimental account of the attempt to understand a parent as an independent person with their own history.
Lamps, penknives, paperbacks, mechanical pencils, inflatable headrests. Marcin Wicha’s mother Joanna was a collector of everyday objects. She found intrinsic – and often idiosyncratic – value in each item. When she dies and leaves her apartment intact, Wicha is left to sort through her things.
The objects are the seemingly ordinary possessions of an ordinary life. But through them, Wicha begins to construct an image of Joanna as a Jewish woman, a mother, and a citizen. As Poland emerged from the Second World War into the material meanness of the Communist regime, shortages of every kind shaped its people in deep and profound ways. What they chose to buy, keep – and, arguably, hoard – tells the story of contemporary Poland.
Joanna’s Jewishness, her devotion to work, her formidable temperament, her weakness for consumer goods, all accumulate into an unforgettable portrait of a woman and, ultimately, her country. Things I Didn’t Throw Out is an intimate, unconventional and very funny memoir about everything we leave behind.