Sunday, September 20, 2009

Square 61: Kettle Creek bag

Square 061

For years I have carried a small red canvas backpack my mother gave me, made by Kettle Creek Clothing Company. The name is embroidered on it in golden-brown thread. It is rugged and has already been repaired once by a friend, but is finally wearing out. Kettle Creek closed years ago, and cloth bags like this one are becoming hard to find. It is irreplaceable.

For years after I came out, I used to head into Toronto once or twice a month to visit the gay village, meet men I had encountered online, go dancing at the bars and spend time with friends I had made there. I dated quite a few. I traveled light, and this bag would carry everything I needed for a weekend.

Those were exciting times but also lonely, I suppose. I had lost my social network and was starting over from nothing. I couldn't go back to where I had been, but had to figure out who I really was and what kind of people I belonged with. I was doing what every adolescent needs to do, twenty years late. Few relationships I made in those days have endured until now. I came out in 1996, and it was five years before I started to figure out where I fit in. It turned out to be Guelph after all, not Toronto, but the big city offered a quick fix. That sounds cheap, but you need something when you're on your own. Toronto kept me busy and allowed me to experiment, and that was valuable. I had few constant companions, but the red bag was one of them.

Later I used it more often for carrying my writing things to the E-bar above The Bookshelf, where I liked to hang out and work. Since I moved seven weeks ago and could walk to pick up groceries, the bag has proven useful but suddenly started to show its age.

In one patch on the bottom the threads are wearing bare. I am afraid to carry anything heavy in it. Soon it will become useless.

I used to keep old, broken, lovely things that had sentimental value attached, but I am trying to overcome that habit. In striving for a simpler life, you can't afford to hold onto clutter. One day soon I must let go of this bag, but I need to retain the stories that hang from the fabric. They are part of who I am.


  1. If you truly don't want to part with it, what about sewing it up and re-purposing it as a pillow, or framing a part of it in a shadowbox?

  2. Not a bad idea, Angela, but I'm not handy with needle and thread, besides this bag would make an ugly, faded pillow. I am seriously trying to break my habit of holding onto worn-out objects, and this knitted square commemorates the bag nicely enough.