12 Days of Significance (18)

By: Sarah Weinman
December 30, 2016

One in a holiday-season series of posts that will reprint stories written — by 12 HILOBROW contributors — for the 2009–2010 SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS project. (In 2012–2013, we reprinted 12 stories by HILOBROW contributors that were also to be found in the Fantagraphics-published collection Significant Objects: 100 Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things.)

The following story is by Sarah Weinman. Enjoy!




A week after the shiva, still not quite used to seeing my own reflection in the uncovered mirrors, I mustered up the nerve to sift through my aunt Holly’s belongings. Well, she wasn’t exactly my aunt; she’d married my mother’s younger brother Joey at the tail end of the disco era, and even though the union hadn’t even lasted two years — he’d had a chronic habit of snorting the cocaine he was supposed to sell — she and I had stayed close through two more marriages and peripatetic travels.

But I hadn’t talked to her in a couple of years, not since my own long-term living arrangements collapsed in financial and emotional disaster, and was in the process of slinking back to my parents’ house in disgrace when I heard Holly was dead. The news did not surprise me; finding out she’d owned her own home, and that she had bequeathed it to me, did.

Holly was the prototype for suitcase living, constantly admonishing me against accumulating crap “because if you get tied down, the rope burns will sting for the rest of your life.” How could I reconcile the anarchic wanderer and her endless stories of the semi-famous men she’d run around with after the Playboy Clubs closed for the night, the woman whose platonic ideal for living was a houseboat in Sausalito, with the never-ending collection of tchotchkes piled high in the living room? What use had Holly had for an emerald-encrusted turtle or twenty-seven kinds of acrylic plants?

A few disheartening hours later, I found the only object in the house that reminded me of the Holly I had loved: a unicorn figurine. It was on the nightstand next to her four-poster bed and the horn glistened like it had been polished just the other day. I picked it up and time-traveled in my mind back to the first time I met Holly, her dirty brown hair parted in the middle, six weeks before she married a man even I, at the age of eight, knew was the wrong one. Before saying hello, she’d burst into a song I’d never heard before:

There were green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty-backed camels and some chimpanzees
Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you’re born
The loveliest of all was the unicorn

Holly sang that song every year on my birthday in a tinny, off-pitch voice that seemed just right. Looking at the unicorn’s playful eyes and gold-flecked horn, the song’s last line sounded in my head just the way she and I would yell it out together.


SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS at HILOBROW: PROJECT:OBJECT homepage | PROJECT:OBJECT newsletter | PROJECT:OBJECT objects (Threadless shop — all profits donated to the ACLU) | POLITICAL OBJECTS series (1Q2017) | TALISMANIC OBJECTS series (2Q2017) | ILLICIT OBJECTS series (3Q2017) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 1 series (4Q2017) | FLAIR series (2Q2018) | FOSSIL series (4Q2018). 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 MORE DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE (AGAIN) | ANOTHER 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE . ALSO SEE: SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS website | SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS collection, ed. Rob Walker and Josh Glenn (Fantagraphics, 2012) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY, ed. Josh Glenn (Princeton Architectural Press, 2007) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY excerpts.

CURATED SERIES at HILOBROW: UNBORED CANON by Josh Glenn | CARPE PHALLUM by Patrick Cates | MS. K by Heather Kasunick | HERE BE MONSTERS by Mister Reusch | DOWNTOWNE by Bradley Peterson | #FX by Michael Lewy | PINNED PANELS by Zack Smith | TANK UP by Tony Leone | OUTBOUND TO MONTEVIDEO by Mimi Lipson | TAKING LIBERTIES by Douglas Wolk | STERANKOISMS by Douglas Wolk | MARVEL vs. MUSEUM by Douglas Wolk | NEVER BEGIN TO SING by Damon Krukowski | WTC WTF by Douglas Wolk | COOLING OFF THE COMMOTION by Chenjerai Kumanyika | THAT’S GREAT MARVEL by Douglas Wolk | LAWS OF THE UNIVERSE by Chris Spurgeon | IMAGINARY FRIENDS by Alexandra Molotkow | UNFLOWN by Jacob Covey | ADEQUATED by Franklin Bruno | QUALITY JOE by Joe Alterio | CHICKEN LIT by Lisa Jane Persky | PINAKOTHEK by Luc Sante | ALL MY STARS by Joanne McNeil | BIGFOOT ISLAND by Michael Lewy | NOT OF THIS EARTH by Michael Lewy | ANIMAL MAGNETISM by Colin Dickey | KEEPERS by Steph Burt | AMERICA OBSCURA by Andrew Hultkrans | HEATHCLIFF, FOR WHY? by Brandi Brown | DAILY DRUMPF by Rick Pinchera | BEDROOM AIRPORT by “Parson Edwards” | INTO THE VOID by Charlie Jane Anders | WE REABSORB & ENLIVEN by Matthew Battles | BRAINIAC by Joshua Glenn | COMICALLY VINTAGE by Comically Vintage | BLDGBLOG by Geoff Manaugh | WINDS OF MAGIC by James Parker | MUSEUM OF FEMORIBILIA by Lynn Peril | ROBOTS + MONSTERS by Joe Alterio | MONSTOBER by Rick Pinchera | POP WITH A SHOTGUN by Devin McKinney | FEEDBACK by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FTW by John Hilgart | ANNOTATED GIF by Kerry Callen | FANCHILD by Adam McGovern | BOOKFUTURISM by James Bridle | NOMADBROW by Erik Davis | SCREEN TIME by Jacob Mikanowski | FALSE MACHINE by Patrick Stuart | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 MORE DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE (AGAIN) | ANOTHER 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | UNBORED MANIFESTO by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen | H IS FOR HOBO by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FRIDAY by guest curators