While visiting with two of my best friends in New England this Christmas, I was enchanted by their holiday decorations, specifically the ones they had on their mantlepieces. One had a collection of Santas; the other had an array of angels. As I stared at their collections, my eyes glazed over and I felt that old tug again that I thought I had put away once and for all. You see, I am a stream-of-consciousness collector. Laurence Sterne would have been proud of me.
I believe my compulsive behavior is rooted in our life in the little rural town of Storrs, Connecticut. We lived there more than thirty years ago in an old farmhouse. If we had lived just two houses further up the road, we could have been as clever as the chicken people. They lived directly across from a hillside dotted with white chicken coops, and attached firmly to their mailbox, in bold red letters, was a sign which read, “Cock-a-doodle View.” I wanted that sign. I lusted after that sign. Instead, our house was across the road from a cow pasture populated with doe-eyed Jerseys. I gave up trying to best our neighbor’s sign and would have been happy to settle for one that could have at least honorably competed. But “Moo View” lacked the same luster, and Holstein Hollow and Guernsey Glen were outright lies.
Since I couldn’t live across from the chickens, I started collecting them. My first piece was a little white chicken with a tiny yellow beak and a blazing red comb. The next chicken came thirty years later on a trip to Sturbridge. I am a slow collector. The first chicken was the size of a thimble, so naturally, I began collecting thimbles. I have two (or had two; they disappeared in the last move), one with a chickadee painted on it, the other a porcelain lady wearing a lavender hat. Granted, my collections are small but singular. The thimbles led to my fascination with buttons because they are loosely connected by a thread. Buttons were my largest, if not my most spectacular, collection. All my buttons came from one source—my husband’s dress shirts when they were too frayed to flip the collar and cuffs again. When my husband pointed out that you couldn’t tell one button from another and wasn’t that one of the nice aspects to a good collection, I got huffy and refused to rip another button off his shirts. He was actually relieved since he had been disputing that some of those shirts were ready for the rag-bin, or the button box, depending on your point of view.
The buttons naturally led me to collecting egg cups. Buttons have holes, the holes reminded me of salt and pepper shakers (which of course, I collected on the way), I love salt and pepper on soft-boiled eggs, and voila–my egg cup collection. And not just any egg cups. The double-sided ones, hard to come by now. The egg cups led to lighthouses ( I ate a soft-boiled egg once near a lighthouse). Oh, well, you get the picture. As I said, I am a stream-of-consciousness collector. And now here I am, wondering if I should start a collection of Santas or angels. Luckily, since the after-Christmas sales are in progress, I might be able to start both…