Tuesday, May 16, 2023
I’m a collector.
When something strikes my fancy I need to possess All The Things. It doesn’t have to be anything special. It doesn’t even need to be anything I’ve bought.
I just like the symmetry of things that are the same but different.
Pretty sure my grandmother got me started on this. Pretty sure it started with Lucy and Me teddy bears. She bought me one. Then she bought me another. Then she bought me more. Then my mother got in on the action and teddy bear figurines became the sort of go-to gift for every occasion.
I mean, they were adorable. Teddies gardening. Teddies having a picnic. Teddies holding little hearts and balloons.
I have every single one of them I was ever given.
Sometimes a person who didn’t understand this particular obsession would buy me another type of teddy bear figurine, thinking I liked teddy bear figurines. And as much as I love all things teddy bear, the Not Lucy and Me figurines never really fit in.
After a while I moved on to Cherished Teddies. My mother made a personal career out of sourcing every conceivable Cherished Teddy in existence. She scoured retail stores. She looked online. She bid on Ebay.
I have every single one of them I was ever given, including an entire Cherished Teddies calendar that has a different figurine for every month of the year. It used to hang in my kitchen.
In high school and beyond, my grandmother started buying me Danielle Steel novels. Those were just meant for collecting. They all had these single-color covers with big lettering scrawled in gold script. It was my introduction to romance novels, and for a long time I had a love affair with romance novels.
I collect books, too. That sounds obvious if you know me at all, but I particularly like to collect sets of books. If I buy a book in a series and it’s a hardcover, I need to buy all the others in hardcover. This has not served me well in some instances where I’ve bought and read books as trade paperbacks, only to be faced with a hardcover when the author came out with a new release.
I am actually neurotic enough that I’ll wait until the book comes out in trade paperback before buying it, which usually takes a YEAR and drives me insane.
Other obvious things I collect: seashells. That’s not my fault though, they sit there and beg me to bring them home and I can’t just abandon them.
I was recently struck by this idea of being a collector as I was sitting on my beanbag in the office, working on some client stuff, and occasionally looking up from my computer to compose a thought.
The view from the beanbag is a whole new thing. I’m down near the ground so I get a different perspective on the room and my desk across the room.
I have collections on my desk. My notecards, for one. And a container of bookmarks. The bookmarks come every month with the book I get from the Book Bus.
The Book Bus is an actual bus, run by a woman who sells books and uses the proceeds to buy books for schools in need. I love the mission, and I love the books. Every month, members get either just a book, or a book with a bookmark. It’s your choice.
Some people – crazy people – get just the book. I, however, get the bookmark as well. What would my collection be if I missed a bookmark? They’re all so beautiful and interesting, sometimes made from wood reclaimed from cool sources, all with unique charms. I can tell you most of the books they went with, too.
Incidentally, the bookmarks sit in an empty candle jar, which I also collect.
In pursuit of coming up with other collections I have, I found a collection of corks from the mead Ralph and I love from Point Reyes. I keep the cork and the muselets.
Muselet. That’s the word for the little wire cage that goes over the cork. I looked it up. You’d be surprised by how many things have words that you never thought had words. Up until about five minutes ago I just called it the little cage that goes over the cork.
Why do I collect them? In part because they’re things, and it seems wrong to just throw them away when they could look pretty in a box. In part because they remind me of all the bottles of mead I have drunk and the fun I had doing it.
I have no intention of doing anything with this collection, I am simply pleased by their presence in a box.
Pencils make a good collection, with their fun colors and sizes.
Hello Kitties are a natural collection, even if they keep eating all my chocolate.
I have a collection of coins from other countries I’ve visited, or that people who have been to other countries have brought back for me. I even have an American penny that’s bigger than a silver dollar. It’s one of my favorite things. They’re in a box with my collection of the two dollar bills my Aunt Rosie saved for me, thinking they’d be worth more than two dollars one day. Even if they were, I wouldn’t part with them.
As you may know from myriad conversations about my bar, I collect bottles. Full ones, empty ones. They’re pretty and serve as artwork when you don’t want to buy Generic Thing To Put On A Shelf from Home Goods. My bottles all have stories.
Maybe that’s why I love collections so much. They have stories. Not just one-off stories but a whole collection of stories, one for each acquisition.
And for this project, I collect words, like discombobulated and vex. Those are great words, aren’t they? They may never become the subject of a post, but they’re fun anyway. I enjoy looking at them on a page or saying them in my head as much as I like writing them.
I’ve never started a collection on purpose. I never set out to accumulate anything. It just happens. It starts with one thing, then maybe there are two. At some point there are enough that it’s a thing.
And I know that I’m not alone. I recently acquired a collection of pine cones because my mother couldn’t bear to see them scattered across the lawn, lonely, unloved. She collected so many that she finally admitted it was time to get rid of a few, though she couldn’t bear to throw them away, either. I adopted a few to put in a bowl on my counter.
Ralph collects seals from Destiny, which are little metal badges with unique designs to represent his accomplishments. Every time he completes a mission and earns a seal, he purchases it and puts it in a place of honor. These days they adorn our bar shelves. I take some credit for that collection, since I’m the one sitting here on a Tuesday night Googling “how to find lucent moths in the Throne World.”
Ultimately, I guess I’m a story collector. And you never know what objects might hold them or exactly what they’ll be.
Photo: a collection of tiny wine bottles from a recent wine Advent calendar. There were 24 but I managed to pare it down to a few favorites since 24 seemed a bit excessive.