I wonder if people collect anymore?

Years ago people took the time to collect coins, stamps, butterflies, antiques, postcards, Hummels, and the like. But then life got too hectic. People care more now about reading emails and sending texts than quietly doing research, taking the time to catalog and organize “treasures” in books and boxes and frames, and creating something as a legacy, or maybe just for one’s own pleasure.

For people who do continue to collect, the value of their collections are not so much monetary as emotional. Collections allow us to relive our childhood, connecting us to a period or time for which we feel nostalgic. Many collect for the thrill of the hunt more than to acquire a priceless objet d’art. It’s why people troll garage sales and flea markets, and why, as the saying goes, “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”

When I was little, a family friend gave me a stamp book as a gift along with a starter set of international stamps. I wasn’t exactly sure why because I had never expressed any interest in philatelic matters; but since it was a present, I graciously accepted it and went about the business of dutifully sticking the starter stamps in the book, which marked both the beginning and the end of my stamp collecting. Wherever that book is now, maybe those stamps are worth millions, but I rather think the whole thing most likely went out with the trash decades ago.

Throughout the years, however, I did begin to collect things. For a long time I seriously held on to my theatre ticket stubs, putting them up on the walls of one of our guest rooms alongside the corresponding Playbill. It excited me to go into that room from time to time and look at all the theatre we had been fortunate enough to experience; however when we sold the house in 1983 and moved to Ohio, it was easier to just leave it all on the walls rather than remove the paint in the process.

I also collected pewter figurines for a time and still have them all, but they became just another thing to dust, so my ardor waned as the dust waxed.

My husband has a very serious collection of all things Peanuts, most especially anything that pertains to Snoopy. I won’t tell you how many nor give you my address as I don’t want to invite trouble, but I will tell you it encompasses everything from what you can find in any Hallmark Store to valuable pieces sent to us from around the world. But valuable or not, they are the biggest dust collectors in our home and require a bi-annual chore, complete with pails of soapy water and hours of salty language.

My most prized collection, however, is one I began quite by accident many years ago when I began professionally writing for a living. I collect people. I am of the firm belief that every person has a story, whether they be famous or just an average Joe. Matter of fact, it is the average Joes and Josephines to whom I most enjoy speaking. I have interviewed Vincent Price and William Shatner, Judge Judy, and Tom Brokaw among other notables, and still it’s the local person with the unrecognizable name to whom I am most drawn. It’s the town worker in Westerly who never finished high school but knows everything about his job; the Viet Nam vet who plants thousands of vegetables in Mystic, then gives them all away to the food bank; the woman who walks the beaches 12 months a year collecting sea glass and turning it into beautiful jewelry; and the little 4-foot, 10-inch grandmothers whose recipes rival those of the finest chefs, but who own no cookbooks nor have ever written down their concoctions.

As I writer I collect moments and emotions, sights and smells. I remember nuances of facial expressions, the smell of someone’s cologne, the tiniest bit of body language. I collect smiles and tears and other people’s memories that they entrust to my care. My collection is invaluable, yet I have no need to insure it. No one can take it from me, and so long as I have my memories, I will never lose it. But the very best thing of all about collecting people remains this: if they get dusty, it’s not my problem to remove it!

Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 17 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at six07co@att.net or 401-539-7762.

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