What is the impulse that turns some of us into collectors -- acquirers and displayers of multiple examples of some type of item? Coin collectors, stamp collectors, toaster collectors, match cover collectors -- you name it, someone collects it.
I have a small and not at all valuable collection of blue and white china; some netsukes -- most of which were gifts and some of which are reproductions; ten or eleven Crabtree and Evelyn mugs -- I used to buy one a year till they became too expensive; some antique quilts -- a few purchased, the rest inherited or gifts; and a little gaggle of tiny Chinese pottery geese. Some would say I collect books but the books aren't for display -- they're for reading.
Perhaps the collecting bug is a hangover from our days as hunter-gatherers -- the thrill of the chase. I know I used to enjoy going to antique malls or flea markets hoping to stumble on something cheat to add to one of my collections. Now, however, I'm attempting to get rid of stuff rather than adding to it.
Recently my sister-in-law Fay reminded me of my inadvertent hippo collection.
It started with a little hard rubber hippo that I bought over fifty years ago and kept by the kitchen sink to hold open whatever book I might be reading while I did the dishes. (Don't judge -- I also used to read in the shower when there was a high window sill on which to prop the book.)
So I had the little hippo in the kitchen and I also had a watercolor done by a friend of a hippo and my mother-in-law (who had become a great collector of shells, baskets, Christmas ornaments, and owls) asked if I wanted more hippos for my birthday.
I didn't particularly but then I remembered William, the blue faience hippo in the Metropolitan Museum's Egyptian collection. And I knew they had reproductions for sale. So I told my mother-in-law about the beautiful blue hippo.
Oh, how delighted I was when a William-sized package arrived the week before my birthday. It sat unopened but just knowing what it contained made me smile every time I looked at it and I spent some time deciding where in the house William would look best.
When my birthday came, I left the William package till last, then opened it slowly, savoring the moment . . . only to discover what I remember as the ugliest, most grotesque ceramic hippo imaginable -- but it was blue.
My mother-in-law never knew how disappointed I'd been. And fortunately she wasn't there when a cat pushed the thing off a table and it shattered beyond repair (my story and I'm sticking to it.)
On my next birthday, my sister-in-law Fay and my friend Vicky O. teamed up to get me a William reproduction -- the hippo of my dreams.
Though I've added two more small hippos (and three rhinos) to the original rubber hippo, I am resisting further collecting.
How about you? What do you/did you collect?