Some years ago during a dance rehearsal, an Azeri colleague announced, “Personal space does not exist in my culture. People who want it are considered weird and snobbish.”

I’m not sure why the topic came up just then, but I thought of it today when the musty smell of hand-embroidered linen unearthed from my dead mother’s blanket box kept wafting, disconcertingly, into my nose. Since yesterday, we’ve had piles of handmade lace, tatwork and embroidery on what we call “the rugged table”, a sorting spot in the place a dining room would be, if we didn’t have so many sepia-tinted photographs, slightly stained star quilts, and books, books, books.

My mother died just over a year ago, and we have recently moved. Prior to her death and our move, I was the sister who didn’t throw away the things my mother no longer had a place for, in her increasingly reduced dwellings. As a result, I have a collection of my great-grandmother’s porcelain,  a finely carved and glazed lamp my father brought over from pre-WWI Hungary, as well as a model my son made of the Great Stupa of Boudhanath, yet no place to put our winter hats.

These treasures represented so much to my family, back before the time of Bed, Bath and Beyond and its ilk; back to a time when linen came from flax that grew in a nearby field. When to possess such riches as are piled on the table proved that you were a woman of substance and culture. Those embroideries meant an enormous investment of time, and of heart. How could I dispense with them? To do so seems soul-less to me. Yet they take up space, space, space.

The definition of ‘chimera’ is both a fire-breathing female monster, compounded of a lion’s head, goat’s body and serpent’s tail; more commonly ‘a thing which is hoped for but which is illusory or impossible to achieve’; and last, in biology it is an organism of genetically different tissues, such as are achieved by grafting.

In order to claim and carve out the thing which is hoped for but seems impossible to achieve, I would have to become a fire-breathing monster, willing to destroy that which stands in my way. Which is weird? Which is snobbish? To accommodate grafted materials which indicated social status and were kept with pride? Or to reject them?