Connecting generations

Originally published Sunday, March 8, 2009


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My uncle works in his “studio” creating his various package assemblages.

Pictures below: Samples of his mailed packages sent to me and my cousins.


 

My Uncle Martin sends me packages.

He sends me LOTS of packages. Sometimes they come so close together that two arrive the same day, or several in the same week.

His packages are not like the kind of packages you might expect. You know, the kind with little goodies for the student away at college, or when I lived overseas and relatives and friends would send us little care packages filled with food, videos of recorded television, all reminders of America so that we could enjoy the pancakes and Star Trek the Next Generation along with the people back home.

His packages are not lightweight, either. I wonder sometimes what the postman must think of these when he delivers them to my door… usually because they don’t fit in my fairly average-sized mailbox. And as a retired attorney and retired Lt. Col./Army, my dear Uncle Martin apparently has chosen to hold the US Postal Service to their original promise to deliver anything with enough postage and an address on it, as long as it doesn’t violate their safety regulations. Legibility, or the lack of it, poses no barriers for the postal service who dutifully find my home address within the myriad of other distractions plastered across the surface of the large bubble envelope.

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No, these packages are different. Each one a work of art, a snapshot collage of Uncle Martin’s fetish of the mind where he devours all things in print and spits them out in little bits and pieces until they take on a new life of their own on one of his packages. For it is not always what is IN the packages that are interesting. It is the package itself.

Like a small child at Christmas, I treasure the packaging even more than what’s inside. and sometimes, what’s inside can be hard to decipher… I search through all the pieces of paper, some looking like nothing more than scraps, other whole magazines, newsletters, or catalogs… sometimes obscure, extreme, conservative, liberal, all walks of the life of opinion are represented here… Since I am an artist, scholar and teacher, Uncle Martin tends to fill my packages with items more inclined to fit those interests… But in this day and age of the 10-second news-bite, Uncle Martin’s news clips and oddly assembled collections of information make for some pretty challenging reading… especially when he has chosen to add his own annotations… or has repurposed a portion of the article, its artwork or photo, for another one of his package assemblages.shapeimage_2
And while sometimes the packages can become overwhelming, either by the volume of their content, the pace of their arrival, or the challenge they pose to me in making sense of the scraps that often fill them, there is one thing I always seek out. The note inside usually says something like this:

“Mara,

Please look over… give away, take any or all, or give them the deep six. if don’t want a repeat TELL ME. I am NOT thin skinned. Love to all, Martin…”

Of course I don’t tell him to stop. Even while my postman must get an instant sciatica attack just at the sight of these, I cannot tell him to stop. I seek the note. It is handwritten in a bold black marker. It is a message from my Uncle, my grandmother’s brother… a connection to a generation I no longer have regular contact with now that my parents themselves have shown signs of aging, and my grandmother has long passed on… No. I love the handwritten notes, the whimsical collages on the packaging, how he has wrapped them together to send to me. And with those packages, I feel wrapped in the love of my grandmother, relatives and all those of the generations before me… and my quirky Uncle Martin, too.

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