Collections and Connections

What do you collect? Stamps? Recipes? Coins? Art? Is there value in your collections? Does your collection appreciate? Or do you just appreciate your collection? Is there a purpose to the collection? More than I really like that stuff? In other words, what is your connection to your collection?

Me, I collect books. I always have. I earned my Girl Scout badge on collecting, by displaying my collection of Nancy Drew Novels. That was in the 4th grade. My desire to own books multiplied with each age.

However, I’ve lost as many books as I have today. We moved a lot and that heavy box of books was always somehow forgotten, missed, or wouldn’t fit into the moving van. So, I collect and collect and collect, but didn’t achieve my dream collection until recently. And this is the story of my connection to my collection.

My bff’s mother past away several years ago and left a large home to be sorted, distributed, and disposed of. I had known Ma Banta since Jr. high years. She was an educated, endearing woman, with a kitchen that smelt of fresh baked cookies and coffee. She had a passion for dogs, literature, and the afternoon soaps. “You kids be quiet down there! My stories are on” she would warn us on summer afternoons as we kids stomped down the wooden steps to the cool basement.

Ma Banta’s only daughter, and my dear friend, Ellen, asked me to assist in the house sorting, cleaning, process -- and of course I agreed. So, one Fourth of July weekend, we dismantled and distributed a couple decades of Ma Banta’s belongings. I was given a treasure trove of books, many of the classics, an English Lit Major’s dream. This included a partial collection of Easton Presses 100 Greatest Books Ever Written. Beautiful, leather bound, gold leafed, fine paper editions representing the most influential minds of all humanity. I’m not sure if Ellen gave me the books because I committed to completing the collection, or if I decided to complete the collection because she gave me all those books, but either way, I signed up for monthly delivery of a great book.

I never anticipated the book’s arrival, but was pleasantly surprised once a month when the book appeared among the collection of AARP notices, credit card applications, and hitchcock flyers. My husband often teased me before the book would arrive. He maintains the checking account and our account is debited about a week before delivery. “What me to tell you what your new book is?” he’d ask. “No” I’d reply. I always want a surprise.

And, yes, I read them. I’ve been reading Les Miserable for the past 12 months.

Well, now I am nearing the end of the collection. I should receive my last book within a week of my birthday. And, I am tempted to continue the subscription. I’m sure Easton Press would be happy to take my money. But, I also look forward to the finality of having completed the collection by acquiring 100 of the greatest thoughts shared with all mankind. It is the completion of a goal.

However, I am also saddened to see a connection between myself and Ma Banta finally come to a close. Because everytime a book would appear in my mailbox, I would think “look what we got this time!” “We” being Ma Banta and me. And, yes, I have all the books on the shelves I sit among everyday, but those are of the everyday, the ordinary, the old. When a new book would appear, it brought the collection into the here and now. And, it brought Ma Banta back to the here and now. I’ve had five years of extending her memory and I will continue that connection through my continued friendship with Ellen. So, I am heartened by the knowledge that although the collection is complete, the connection is not. And, of course, every time I open a great book, or smell cookies baking, the connection is collected again.

So, as you continue your collections, try not to consider its appreciation, but appreciate the connection to your collection.