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Collecting can sneak up on you

Sunday, October 5, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:44 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

I never realized that I was a collector until my husband told me to stop. And looking around my house, I think he told me a little too late. I never had a collection of anything as a child. I liked variety. But somehow, throughout the years, I took up the hobby without really knowing it. Now I have a dozen different collections, and I don’t know what to do with them. My husband said it’s time to start thinking about downsizing (No, we’re not selling the house). He says there’s no place left to display a thing. So he wants me to get rid of the stuff I don’t collect anymore.

Starting in the attic, I have box after box of crafts that were made by my children and grandchildren. Throwing these priceless pieces of art away is akin to burning the flag. It’s almost sacrilegious. I also have kept letter jackets, military uniforms and all the term papers (at least the ones that had passing grades), certificates and assorted junk that my kids neglected to take when they left home.

I recently asked one of my sons if he wanted his old box of stuff.

“Oh, no, Mother. You have to keep it until you die. Then when we’re all going through these boxes after the funeral, we can sit up here and reminisce and distort history and fight about who drew all these unsigned pictures.”

I guess I first started collecting dolls. As I child I never really wanted one for Christmas or my birthday, opting instead for the latest toy or clothes. But during one of my mid-life crises, I decided I’d been deprived in my youth and started buying them. At first I wasn’t picky. I’d buy any doll that tickled my fancy. Then I decided to narrow my focus and concentrate on bride dolls. Maybe that’s because I never had a big white wedding.

As my collection grew, space became a problem. Then I came up with a very clever idea. My youngest son had just left the nest, so I decided to turn his old room into a giant display case. I had glass doors and shelves installed in his closet and put all of my lovely dolls on the shelves. I ripped out his built-in desk and replaced it with a white, wrought iron crib that I filled with baby dolls. Now when I have guests spend the night there is nowhere for them to hang their clothes. But they get to lie in bed and look at my collection. I’m finally over my doll phase and my seven granddaughters are eying the lot so I know how I’ll rid the house of one collection.

I have a few of what I call stutter-start collections. The ones I get bored with after I’ve only collected a few items. My perfume bottles and miniature designer shoes fit that category. I stopped collecting charms — the bracelet always catches on my clothes, and it’s so full of charms that I can’t put my hand flat on the table. I have a small collection of nun figurines. And I must say, I enjoyed collecting them. But then the company went out of business, which ended that collection for me.

Several years ago a friend gave my husband a porcelain cow. (I guess she didn’t know that he collects frogs; there are only 200 or 300 lying around the house!). This particular cow was black and white with piano pedals for teats. Its name was Moozart. Well, one thing led to another and now we have 45 cows. My husband said the other day that he didn’t even like cows, so that collection is going on eBay.

But there is one collection I don’t want to part with. I’ve gone “cuckoo” for cookbooks. I have 200 and counting. I have no idea why or when I started collecting them. All “wannabe” chefs have dozens of cookbooks. But my husband thinks I’ve gone over the top. I have books on every subject from Asian fare to wild game. (I haven’t cracked either of those cookbooks, but if I ever get a hankering to fix sushi or roast a wild boar, I’m ready.) I even belong to a cookbook of the month club, actually two of them. I say you can never have too many cookbooks. My husband says it’s time to stop. He plucked one book off the shelf and asked when was the last time I made a cake in the form of a school bus. I will admit that I’ve never attempted to decorate fancy cakes or elaborate dishes, but the directions are there if I ever get inspired.

I told my husband that I would remove SOME of the cookbooks if he would cull through his 80-plus baseball caps. He only wears one, and it’s so dirty and tattered he looks like he lives on the street. That shut him up!

I know that at some point we are going to have to get rid of most of our stuff, but I keep thinking that’s down the road. For now I’ll pitch the stuff I don’t like or care about anymore. It will give me more space to buy some new cookbooks.

If you have a comment or want to trade some cookbooks for cows, please e-mail me at jdh@socket.net


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