A few years ago, my handbell group did a concert in northern Michigan. Our host for the event invited us to a reception at his home, a lovely old farmhouse overlooking one of the lakes. Inside, he proudly took us on a tour of his massive collection of fruit jars. Over 800 of them, each one individually displayed in custom built shelving that surrounded the walls in nearly every room, each one lovingly labeled with its name, date of origin, and place of purchase, some of them dating back as far as pre-Civil War times. I had no idea there were so many different kinds of fruit jars, or that people collected them with such fervor – there are apparently nation wide collectors conferences, swap meets, and contests. Who knew?Personally, I’m a haphazard collector, at best. Early in my married life, I desultorily collected teapots, and then toyed with the idea of collecting antique sugar bowls and cream pitchers. I received a few pieces of Waterford crystal as wedding gifts, but the cost prohibited me from collecting many more. I guess I get bored with things after a while – they lose their luster rather quickly, especially the kinds of things I have to dust! I could never in a million years muster the enthusiasm to collect nearly 1000 fruit jars.
Truthfully, the older I get, the less interested I am in “things” of any kind. With the exception of books (which I suppose I’ve been collecting since I could toddle into the bookstore), I have little interest in material possessions anymore.
However, I am passionate about collecting experiences. Like the feeling of euphoria after a good performance, or the magical feeling I get when the perfect words seem to flow from my fingertips. Sharing a special meal with family and friends, or Jim and I laughing until we cry at some cute trick the dogs are doing. Walking through the park on a cool, fall evening, or driving down a country road with the wind blowing in my hair. Sleeping late on a rainy morning, curling up with a good book on a chilly night.
And, like most collectors, I’m searching for some particularly rare and precious moments to add to my collection. A month spent in the French countryside, a novel completed and published, a newborn grand-baby to hold in my arms.
Perhaps I’m not such a haphazard collector after all. Even though my collection can’t be displayed on a shelf or catalogued in a computer file, it can’t be bought by the highest bidder, or win any blue ribboned prize, it will live in my memory and heart for all time.
What could be more valuable than that?