The Art of Collecting

Image Courtesy of Pixabay

Day 331

Sometimes blog topics come to me by happenstance. I was thinking about the things I collected throughout my life and wondered if I would be happier to live a minimalist lifestyle. Somewhere in this mental wandering, I ended up reading the notes on Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie.

In the play, Laura has a collection of glass figurines she treasures. I am not sure I ever had a collection of anything that I prized that much, but I did collect things throughout my life.

The first thing I ever remember collecting was broken glass pieces harvested from the creeks where I lived. They were beautiful to me. Shimmering in the water, smoothed from days of continued polishing by the water and the rocks along the way. I kept them in the cardboard box my Barbie doll came in (yes, Barbie was once packaged in cardboard). I do not know whatever became of my glass collection, but I wish I had it now. I cannot tell you why, but it is meaningful to me. Maybe because we did not have a lot or maybe because I could see something beautiful in the things other people had discarded.

My great-aunt had a glass cabinet filled with porcelain animal collectibles. There was usually an adult and two baby animals connected together by a gold chain. They were delicate and beautiful — much like I imagine Laura’s collectibles were in the play.

By Brian StansberryOwn work, CC BY 3.0, Link

My grandmother had a collection of Blue Ridge Pottery dishes. They were made by Southern Potteries out of Erwin, TN. The pottery plant was located on land set aside in the early 1900s by The Carolina, Clitchfield & Ohio railroad to encourage the growth of industry along the railroad. These dishes were brightly decorated and say everything about ‘home’ to me. Sadly, like so many other things taken from my father, these dishes disappeared into the homes of other people.

When I was in the Air Force, I purchased a set of black Mikasa-like glassware. Beautiful goblets that I dreamed I would someday use at an elegantly appointed table. Unfortunately, that collection was collateral damage from my marriage. My ex turned the goblets upside down, snapped off the base and used them as candle holders. I learned to let go of things rather quickly after that.

I had short-lived fascinations with hunting and collecting things at antique stores. I had barber bottles for a while, then ornate perfume bottles, and an eventual collection of cobalt blue glass. This included several poison bottles that I purchased off of e-bay. I still have the perfume bottles and the cobalt blue glass, but they are packed away — wrapped in bubble wrap — waiting for someone else to love them someday.

My husband was a collector for a while, too. He had David Winter cottages, porcelain owls, and a collection of duck stamp prints. Between the two of us, nothing we ever collected really had any value. They were simply things we liked.

Of late, I do not collect much. We have a rather large collection of original Plein air paintings purchased throughout our marriage. These are on the walls and are a constant and loving reminder of the life we have shared together. I do have quite a few tools and supplies related to art and jewelry making. But still, I look around and think I could live with less. Hubby is an avid collector of hardback books that overflow our bookshelves. He also has an assortment of tools (thankfully they are mostly housed in the garage).

I wonder what it is that makes us collect things. To surround ourselves with things we love is comforting somehow. All these treasures of ours are unfortunately seen as ‘stuff’ that our children do not want to deal with when we die. I have become the repository for ‘family’ memorabilia. Nothing of any intrinsic value — just a collection of memories. It is wise for us to remember that many of the things that hold memories for us because of our parents or grandparents hold few if any memories for our children or grandchildren. As a result, I have been asking questions of my children. What do you want?  If there is no interest, then why am I holding on? I guess because there are still memories for me.

Now I am off to find a copy of The Glass Menagerie to read — or perhaps I can find a film streaming somewhere.


Blog, Writing

Things We Keep

Day 97

Today I have been in a whirlwind of thought. I have drifted in and out of every stage of my life only to wind up here in the present, sitting in front of my computer trying to decide what to write about. Maybe there is a form of writer’s block for blogs as well.

Perhaps my thoughts have been spinning so much because of the MasterClass course on writing. So many things to think about — so much so if you aren’t careful, too many thoughts invade the creative space choking out your ideas.

In reading other people’s work, I started to think about the things that people keep as ‘treasures’ and why they keep them. Some of these thoughts may have been foremost in my mind because of a novel I’m working on. Regardless, we all have things we treasure — physical, tactile things that remind us of something or someone or someplace that we care for or that we long for.

My Grandmother Far Left

I wrote about my grandmother’s 78 rpm record I broke when I bounced onto the bed as a child. I never knew and never thought to ask why that record was so important to her, but I know it was. My great uncle had a hatpin that belonged to his mother — my paternal great-grandmother. I can imagine why he kept it.

I have my father’s baby shoes, one of his baby ‘gowns’, and hair from his first haircut. My daughter and I often joked about cloning my dad from his hair before we understood that DNA was not carried in cut hair. We all loved him so much and I imagine I will pass those items on to my children.

As teenagers, we kept scrapbooks. Not the beautiful kind that people spend hours on — crafting scenes from paper, photos, and beautiful stickers — that’s an art form! I’m talking about concert ticket stubs, chewing gum wrappers, movie tickets, notes from boyfriends, school play programs, etc. All of our everyday memories were painstakingly taped to black pages before we knew that neither the tape or the paper had acid that would eat our treasures apart.

There are treasures I have brought along with me through the years. Little chairs with velvet cushions cut from Pepsi cans, my grandmother’s stereoscope and love letters between my parents. They all remind me of some piece of my simple life. No financial treasures in my possession but they are the very essence of who I am.

Of course, I have memories of things I cherished that have long since been lost. My grandmother had a newspaper clipping in a book that looked like the face of Jesus. Of course, we have no idea what Jesus looked like, but it was the face we knew from attending Sunday School every Sunday morning. I remember stumbling on it as I flipped through some of her old books. The bookshelves, the books, and the clipping are long gone.

As a child, my favorite possession was a box of glass pieces I collected from the creek. They were china plates, pop bottles, and Ball canning jars — all smooth and polished from tumbling miles and miles over the rocks through the cold mountain creeks. They were beautiful. I kept my collection in the cardboard box my Barbie came in — yes, Barbie used to come in a cardboard box. I will bring it back, though, through my writing someday.

“The thing about growing older was that all of one’s possessions became imbued with a sense of the past.” 
Ella Carey