The other night, when I was putting my daughter, Jane, to bed, I spotted, out of the corner of my eye, something gleaming and glistening. It didn’t look right.
I moved the wired picture frame and behind the photo of her as a defiant Tinker Bell (the picture has to be seen to be believed), I found a stockpile of paper clips and staples, bent, used and forgotten.
“What is this?” I asked.
“Paper clips and staples,” she responded, with a shake of her head.
“I know that,” I countered. “What I mean is, what IS this?” I moved my hand around in the universal symbol of “explain to me the meaning of the bigger, more significant picture.”
Even though she’s only 5, Jane knows that signal to speak now, wholeheartedly, or forever hold her peace.
“It’s my collection,” she admitted forlornly.
“No, Jane, it’s not a collection. It’s trash, and it’s dangerous trash,” I replied in full Mother mode. And with that, I swept away weeks, or maybe even months, of furtive ferreting and coveting of used office supplies.
As I tossed Jane’s “collection” into the garbage, I began to wonder, “What is the difference between a collection and just an accumulation of trash?”
We all know that tried-and-true aphorism, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” and how true it was in this case.
For whatever reason, Jane had fixated on finding and scurrying away with my leftover office supplies, and in her mind, she was accumulating a trove of glittery, bright artifacts. Perhaps they were a bounty that could rival King Tut’s Tomb one day.
In a swift, bold invasion, I had found and eliminated her carefully constructed hiding spot and all its contents.
I began to think that perhaps Jane is confused because so many of my collectibles have been turned upside down due to a prolonged house renovation. My pride and joy of dolls, snow globes, bears, Disney memorabilia—all of those beloved and cherished pieces—have been taken from their usual spots of honor and have become either scattered, packed up or buried away.
For impressionable Jane, my collectibles are no longer carefully displayed and meticulously arranged. They are now strewn about the home in a willy-nilly fashion. Does that mean they are no longer collectibles?
To be a collector, do you also have to be a curator of sorts? Do you have to have your possessions lined up and arrayed in an oh-so-fastidious way? Or, at the very least, do they need to be visible and put out for all to see
I don’t know the answer to that. Perhaps you do. I pose you a question, a variation of the old “tree in the forest” brain teaser: If a collector collects a ton of collectibles, but nobody sees them, is she a collector?
For the next few months, my beautiful artifacts will be packed up and put away. I’m not sure when they will emerge again. Does that mean I have to trade in my card-carrying collector status? I sure hope not.
When it comes to collecting, for me at least, it’s not always what you put up on the shelf, but rather what you tuck away in your heart that makes the difference. My dolls and other treasures might be nestled away temporarily, but their significance and their meaning are still fully on display in my life. I’m a collector through and through. I just don’t have the shelf space at the moment to prove it.