12 Days of Significance (32)

By: Sara Ryan
January 1, 2018

One in a 2017–2018 series of posts reprinting stories originally written — by 12 HILOBROW contributors and friends — for Josh Glenn and Rob Walker’s 2009–2010 anthropological-literary experiment SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS. See below for more info about this ongoing project.




Anne Cole writes:

The summer when I was nine, Mom bought boxes and boxes of popsicles on sale, lemon-lime, some discontinued brand. They looked like fluorescent jaundice on a stick, but they tasted sharply sour-sweet, and I loved them. The first time I ate one, or two, actually, since they were the kind you can break in half to share, but I didn’t, I did what anyone would do: tossed the sticks into the trash.

Mom fished them out, rinsed them off, and said, “They’re perfectly good.” “For what?” I asked, but she didn’t answer.

Our house was already swelling up with things we might need, things we couldn’t possibly throw away, things Mom couldn’t believe were just sitting out on the curb.

I took the sticks into my room and stared at them. I needed to turn them into something that made sense to me, but I didn’t know what.

Soon, it became a ritual. Eat, rinse, take sticks to room.

They were drumsticks until there were too many and Mom said it was too loud when I played.

They were bookmarks until they cracked the spine on a library book.

I threw them on my floor and tried to use the patterns they made for divination, but I couldn’t make up my mind about what they meant.

I had more and more of them, clustered in a jar on my dresser. Once I dreamed they all came to life like the brooms in that story.

One day when she had to work Mom took me to the Boys and Girls club. The computers and the swings were full, so I went with some lady who said we were going to do art.

First thing, she got out a huge box of popsicle sticks — at least, that’s what the box said, but it was clear that no popsicles had ever been attached to them.

At least my sticks had served one useful purpose. What was the point of a box of sticks with no popsicles?

I was going to leave, but you had to stay once you chose an activity. I wouldn’t do it, but I watched her and the other kids, and it finally gave me the idea for what to do.

Of course we had glue at home. Of course there was a piece of wood to use for a base. I glued and glued, making up the design as I went.

But when I looked at it when I was done, all I could think is that I’d made a way to perpetuate the cycle, the empty space inside the bowl calling out to be filled with more things. Like the ever-shrinking empty spaces in our house.

I waited until school started, smuggled it out of the house in my backpack, and abandoned it in a kindergartner’s cubby.

It was a start.

[Anne Cole is a character from a forthcoming graphic novel by Sara Ryan.]


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