My grandfather’s hobby was money. He liked to manage it, to watch it grow, passing it from fund to fund, speaking with managers of it, estate planning, and taxes. He collected it and watched it grow, much like heirloom vegetable seeds, except, it made him feel uneasy, even if gruesome tax laws and advisers urged him, to gift it. And I understand that miserly, hoarding way. It’s how I feel about the items in my pantry, foods and condiments I’m not sure I’ll need straight away, but that bring me a sense of calm just knowing they’re there. Arrowroot. Large Pearl Tapioca. Lavender Syrup. Rose Water.
Psychologically speaking, I’m not sure that I understand the need to collect things. I’ve lived a lifetime of hoarding, for sure, because on some level I believed that if I didn’t stow away my most prized possessions (my Barbies, epoxy stickers, the chocolate-covered almonds in Hagen-Dazs Vanilla Swiss Almond), they’d be taken from me, used, or even ruined by someone else. “Someone else” usually came in the form of my little sister, or otherwise, a parent yanking away my plate. I wanted to preserve things, to know they were there for me at any given moment, whenever I wished. It was something I could control and turn to; just to look at it brought me comfort. It’s why I always save the best for last.
I know some collect butterflies, stamps, baseball cards, or at the suggestion of a grandparent, coins. Others scour the Internet for Beanie Babies, Starwars action figures, pez dispensers, and comic books. The more refined collector might take an interest in shot glasses, snow globes, or dare I say it, bobble heads. These seem to be innocuous collections bred quite possibly from either an inherited collection, or a budding interest in the historical significance of rednecks, but most assuredly, people who collect such items do so purposefully.
I’ve accidentally made quite a nice collection of cookbooks and cameras. Ribbons, scrapbook supplies, and cellulite. I never intended to display said items; they’re really just surplus. Still, there they are, decorating my life.
If I were a collector, I might choose to amass pens and inkwells given my profession. I’ve always loved the idea of collecting sands from each of the places I visit, storing and labeling them in small glass apothecary jars. I’d love to display them on a narrow shelf mounted beneath a series of black and white photographs of the corresponding destination.
I love the idea of collecting perfume bottles, empty vintage ones to display on a silver tray or shelved on a vanity near a sunken Asian-style soaking tub. But without doubt, I realize what I most love to collect are items for my pantry. I need to see my cabinets stocked. Necessity is not defined by a simple Nestle bag of chips, but rather, bittersweet, semi-sweet, white, mini, and mint chips. I need these items at the ready. Just to look at. I know I’ll be ready, any time I’d like, to create.
The other thing I love to collect is Williams-Sonoma gadgets. I need every last zester. A flexible spatula, a grill spatula (extra long for bigger items). Grapefruit knives and spoons, melon scoops, flour sifters, and copper pots, bowls, molds, and cookie cutters. A gelato paddle. Chinois, or a fine China Cap, fitted with a wooden pestle. I don’t know that I’ll use each and every item, but I love having it all, from stackable bamboo steamers to an egg slicer. One thing is for certain: you have to make sure each item can do more than one thing.
I’m not a fan of Lladro, but since I grew up with Herend figurines, I want to begin to collect some. I’ve always ADORED porcelain vegetables: haricot verts bundled with a pink bow, decorative passion fruit, even bulbs of onion. And of course the petite jewel-like limoges pill boxes. But especially Anna Weatherley designs.
I realize it’s all a luxury, being able to collect the silly things we do from pillboxes to Majorca and Fabrege Eggs, it’s all decorative and quirky, and makes me wonder, just a bit, about the amount of energy we put into such collections. But even more important, why do we do it?