It was the early 1990s. My boss and I sat at the large round conference table in his office and listened. Our guest was a widely known, much admired corporate strategy management consultant.
Profiled that week in the Wall Street Journal, Greg had just returned from keynoting an important conference in California. More handsome and dynamic than the pictures in his press kit, he glowed health and wellbeing despite a harrowing night spent on the red eye flight to our meeting. For an hour, he entertained and informed us with inspiring stories of turnarounds and innovative solutions to long-entrenched problems.
As we shook hands and arranged another meeting, Greg mentioned more nonstop travel for the coming week. I joked that he never seemed to be home. He grinned at us.
“I carry my home with me,” he said, pulling out a small matchbox from his front pocket.
He opened it carefully. Inside was a subway token from his father, a tiny shell from his little girl, and a penny from his son. A scroll was inscribed with a favorite poem from his wife.
Before he closed it, he paused to gaze inside the box. “I carry my home with me,” he told us again and tucked the box in his pocket.
The glass doorknob in the picture comes from a farmhouse in upstate New York. It won’t fit into a matchbox, but it is the start of a new home to me. Decades old, well worn but still bright, it evokes my grandmother’s house in Massachusetts where all my relatives were bright, alive, and beautiful and the kitchen got so warm from turkey roasting that we had to open the back door. All her doorknobs were glass.
I wrote about doorknobs for the very first blog post that I ever wrote. It was a forgettable, little pained bit about doorknobs and old houses, but it was the start of a new life in the world of writer. I’m building my writer home and the glass doorknob is the first treasured part to go into the box.