Saturday, November 9, 2013

Photo A Day, Day 9: Mine

My favorite line from Fiddler on the Roof (and there are many – oh, are there many) is when Tevye is introducing his daughters to a guest and informs him, “This is mine, and this is mine, and this is mine, and this…this is not mine,” the latter referring to his eldest daughter Tzeitel’s would-be suitor, Motel, who is constantly hanging about Tevye’s home. Tevye is proud of his daughters but has little respect for Motel – at least, not until Motel shows some backbone and claims Tzeitel for his bride over Tevye’s objections. Once Motel becomes Tevye’s son-in-law (in other words, “mine”), Tevye treats him very differently. Whether something is “mine” because I earned it, I sought it, I worked for it, or merely because I inherited or otherwise stumbled into it, it becomes more valuable and more cherished merely because of its “mine-ness.”

We all have a natural pride in things we can label “mine.” I am proud of my car, even though it’s not stylish or cool, because I worked hard to save the money for it. It is mine. I am proud of my children, because they are a part of me, and because I have worked hard to make them into polite and pleasant people. They are mine. I am proud of my writing, because I have put blood and sweat and tears into making it interesting, entertaining, and insightful. I have put my heart and my soul into it. It is mine.

Some things we call “mine,” though, we really can’t claim credit for. My house is mine, but I didn’t choose it, or decorate it, or furnish it; I simply married into it. It is mine, and I love it, but I don’t take the same kind of pride in it as I do certain other things because I didn’t work for it or make it what it is. My stepdaughter is mine, but it would be presumptuous (and disrespectful to her own parents) for me to claim responsibility for the lovely young woman she’s become; I didn’t create her or mold her. She is mine, and I love her, because she is an important and dear part of my family, but I cannot claim credit for who she is.

Another important aspect of “mine” is things that are a part of me, in some sense; part of me that will live on when I am gone. Children, art, and writing are three examples of “mine” that live on past their creator. My children will pass on what I’ve taught them to the next generation. They are mine in the sense of being my legacy. An artist who creates physical works of art such as paintings or sculptures will live on through their works, looked on by future generations. A writer, whether a novelist, or a poet, or even a lowly blogger such as myself, can look forward to his words being read and perhaps thought about long after the author is in his grave. These “mines,” in a sense, are our immortality.

So what is it that symbolizes “mine” to me? Is it my children? My writing? Something tangible that I own? I think that the one thing that is most uniquely mine is my story, my life. Whether I put it into words on a page, tell it to others, or simply live it, my life is that one thing that is absolutely, uniquely mine. It is what it is because of my choices. I have made this path. I have cultivated the relationships around me. I may not have controlled the situations I have encountered, but I have the sole responsibility for the decisions I made in those situations. It is my story. MINE.

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