Monday, January 12, 2009

Stuff and Nonsense

I want scratch and sniff stickers. I used to have a bunch of them. I mean, granted it was second and third grade, but I had a sticker collection with all kinds of cool stuff. I had holographic pink ballet slippers and a pretty shiny rainbow thingamabob. But the scratch and sniff were my favorite. I distinctly remember my pickle and root beer ones the most. Now, though? I wouldn't have the faintest idea where to find a smelly sticker. Maybe they went the way of Garbage Pail Kids and plastic charm bracelets. Maybe they were recalled for high levels of lead. Maybe kids just think they're dumb.

I've had a bunch of collections over the years, so let me share a little bit of my accumulated (pun intended) wisdom. Unless you really, REALLY love what you're collecting, NEVER tell anyone that you collect it. Not unless that's all you want to get for every gift-giving occasion for the rest of your life. Letting your penchant for a certain something out of the bag basically just hands everyone in your life an excuse to never think of what to buy you again. You like hummingbirds? Guess what you're going to get forever?

I know because in high school I really liked frogs. They were everywhere when I was growing up in Louisiana but there were none in California, where I moved. So I started collecting them, maybe as a homesick thing. Just cute little figurines, wooden or pewter or whatever. But then word got out and for years, that's all I got from friends and family, even when I outgrew the collection. I got a handmade frog quilt (still cool), a frog jewlery box, plastic frogs, frog shirts, a Buddha frog. It rained frogs in my life until I finally begged for mercy at the age of twenty-five. "Let's ALL move past the frogs. Please!"

My collections are much subtler now. I didn't even realize I was collecting in some cases until I sat and considered what I spend time acquiring. I collect books. Lots and lots of books. Hundreds in storage, dozens in my home. Slowly I'm beginning to build a subset of super cool books: I have an original edition of Huckleberry Finn (whoa!) and a SIGNED copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. I think I'd like to expand my collection but only with books that resonate with me emotionally, so I imagine that my pile will grow slowly. That's a particularly expensive habit.

It's better than some of my collections from years past, though. In fifth grade, I collected fingernails. Don't read on if you're easily grossed out. My fingernails grow really long, really fast. I keep them short now but for years they were super long and that was kind of my trademark. I'm talking an inch long, in many cases. And when my really long ones broke, I would keep them. I had spent a lonnnnng time with them as part of me, you know. I think in high school I finally figured out that it was a bizarre thing to do and they went in the trash. That particular quirk makes a cameo appearance in my recently completed novel, because heaven knows, you just can't make stuff like that up.

I've had other less disturbing collections, too. Buttons. Shoes. Empty Pringles cans (sour cream and onion). Red M&Ms. Wheat pennies. Foreign coins.

But as I grow older, I become less attached to things. What I like to pull out and dust off and admire now are memories, experiences, stories, adventures past. So that's the collection I aim to grow for the next seventy years. I expect I'll be rich indeed when I'm done.

*P.S. If you didn't collect your compliment on Saturday, you can pick it up below.


Luisa Perkins said...

Nice ending. I'm envious of your signed copy of TKAM.

Are you marketing your novel, or have you already sold it?

Sandi said...

Oh my.....this was very interesting. I will resist the urge to make fun of some of your more interesting collections. I love to hear this kind of stuff about people- makes me feel more normal..haha JK!!
By the way, I have found that it is a great way to burn a lot of time, going to browse through the books at thrift stores, and I have actually made several really good finds, nothing as good as your original Huck Fin and signed To Kill a Mockingbird...but maybe someday!

Annette Lyon said...

I had a sticker collection as a kid too. It was a big deal at the time. Also envious of the TKAMB.

I do have a first edition Anne of Windy Poplars. Unsigned--and my least favorite Anne book--but it's something. Found it for sale at our library for like fifty cents.

LisAway said...

Scratch 'n sniff stickers!?! I loved those! And sticker collections, with the puffy stickers with googly eyes and the "metallic" ones (I always called them that).

We see these DARLING little frogs all over in Poland. I'll miss them if we ever move back to the states. I may go into a bit of a frog craze, too. With your warning, though, I'll be sure to let everyone know that it is only a one year craze.

Alison Wonderland said...

So funny and so true about telling people what you collect. But I think you're pretty safe with books.

Kristina P. said...

I don't collect anything now. Maybe calories. But I used to collect stickers too!

I'm not a hugely sentimental person, so maybe that's why.

Nancy said...

We had a pig thing in our family for a while, glad to be over that. There are a few lingeres, however. I collect ink wells... but need to find a clever way to display them in my new studio, when I get one : )
But as you I get older it is nice to get rid of stuff and definitely have less to dust.
My favorite sticker was a fuzzy hedgehog - I am still liking stickers - but am more selective now...cheers!

Anonymous said...

First off, I could never "collect" M&Ms. They would not make it, no matter how much I wanted to do it. I'd have to drench then in resin or something else to make them inedible.

Secondly, you are so right. I've always thought pink flamingos were cool in a retro, kitchy kind of way. Plus I love to watch the actual bird. I'd often get flamingo socks or something like that from my step-mom. Nothing bad. But then my Jr year of college (when I was engaged) I decided to do my bathroom flamingo-y and my then-fiance found me a shower curtain and everything over the summer. OOPS! Now my future in-laws knew that I liked pink flamingos. They knew little else about me except that I had a tattoo. Well, what do you give a person who has a tattoo? I don't know either ... so they went with all things flamingo.

I'm not such a flamingo fan anymore, except at the zoo.

Becky said...

I had a frog issue for a couple of years, too. Thankfully, that has passed.

Fingernails, huh? That's, uh, well... Yeah, that's weird. :)

Kimberly said...


I liked Boyd's Bears figurines a few years ago and make the big mistake. Oi.

Heather of the EO said...

The frog thing happened to me too. And turtles. One boyfriend even got me a LIVE turtle. Cole was his name. The turtle, not the guy. I am so sick of frogs and turtles. I was a teen, why do people think I still want frog socks?

Love this post. The ending was so great. You're train of thought is a hilarious kind of lovely.

Heather of the EO said...

I have no idea why I wrote "you're" about your train of thought. I hate using the wrong your without thinking so I had to say I noticed...

Kenny, the husband said...

Wheew! Now, I don't feel QUITE as bad about accidentally breaking the toes off that frog statue of yours. ;)

Oh, you should tell all the folks about your mom's unintential collection of ROOSTERS! (Hee-hee-hee)

Scribbit said...

I hadn't thought of my sticker collection in YEARS! I had scratch and sniffs too :)

Anonymous said...

I had stickers, too, though in hindsight not really very many. I don't think I had any scratch 'n' sniff ones.

Just the other day my brother told me that Garbage Pail Kids are still around, and grosser than ever.

Now I guess I collect fabric, although I kid myself that I'm buying it to use and not just stash. And I still mean to finish sorting the 50-lb box of vintage buttons I bought in the early days of eBay.

Mostly these days I collect children. It's an expensive hobby.

(Oh, and thanks so much for the compliments in the other post. That was quite a labor of love of yours to write that post.)

CaJoh said...

I guess I tried my hand at collecting those things that people expect you to collect— stamps, coins, etc. but never kept it up.

I like the fact you collect "memories, experiences, stories, adventures past". I think that is a great reason to write— to "keep" those collections so that you can share them with others.

Emily said...

So you and that kid on American Idol collect fingernails.

Interesting. I've never done anything weird like that.



Stephanie Humphreys said...

Love the old sticker collections. Scratch and stiff were my favorite. I used to collect fans. I loved the history of the fan and how women used to communicate with them. Of course as a teenager I couldn't afford anything great, but I had a few I loved. I knew it was out of control when I showed up at my wedding reception to find that my mother and her friend had decorated the whole place with gigantic fans made of wallpaper on every wall. Nothing fancy, just accordion folded paper with a paper twist bow. My love of fans died very quickly after that. And what do you say to the two well-meaning women. "It's beautiful" of course. :)

Debbie said...

I know what you are talking about with collections. I bought myself a lovely metal rooster for my kitchen, then my husband and I bought a great funky one for the wall. I have been scared to death people will think I collect them. So far - so good.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe I forgot to say that I did the fingernail thing, too -- I would trim them and they were such lovely clean half-moons -- and would be so useful if anyone ever needed to identify my DNA -- that I just wanted to keep them. I had them in a little spice jar on my dresser. But my husband thought it was gross and eventually I threw them out. And now I live in dry Utah again and my fingernails always break before they grow.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

I've never been much of a collector, but strangely my house is full of too much stuff. I do collect books for my kids, though. And if you want me to sign any of your books, I'd be glad to. Apparently a signature makes them special? (j/k, I really did get it.)

Eowyn said...

It makes me laugh to read this because not only does it remind me of the things I used to collect (rocks and stickers) but it also reminds me of the bizarre things my children collect. My daughter collects leftover gift cards and cards like that. My son used to collect soda bottles, but I conveniently cleaned his room and removed that collection.

I too am envious of the TKAMB