I am a collector. Or, I should say, a hoarder. I trace this aspect of my personality to the noteworthy age of 14 when my parents suggested I throw away my stuffed purple panda that was missing one eye and one leg. Instead of throwing away the panda, I threw a temper tantrum.
My parents said that in a long life I could not save everything.
I didn’t listen.
I still have the remains of my Lincoln penny collection and stamps from around the world. In retrospect, I seem to have kept the least valuable in these collections. For instance, one of my prized Lincoln pennies is now worth––a penny! I also have a sack of pumpkin seeds from last fall’s harvest. Who knows when I might need the seeds.
But my most prized possession sits in my study at Brant Lake. At first glance this object appears to be a box that I acquired for $15 at the annual antique show in Warrensburg. I knew this was a bargain but the salesman said I could buy this box at a greatly discounted price because no one else wanted it. Inside it contains two shelves made of screen. On the outside is the remainder of a steam chimney that no longer works since the bottom half is missing. In case this description does not clearly identify this contraption I will explain: Every morning a farmer would gather the eggs from his chickens and place them on the shelves inside the box. Then, using steam heat, the eggs would incubate and hatch. Now, if you owned an egg hatcher would you ever consider giving away this prize? Of course not. And on top of the box I can stack used paperback books that no one wants to read. Someday I may even bring a chicken to live in the box.
I could continue with a list of my treasures such as model birchbark canoes, decorated birdhouses and the photographs of flowers taken in Provence. Hundreds of photos of the same picture.
Suddenly, when I turned 80, I lost my enthusiasm for being a hunter gatherer. Now I am searching for people to whom I can give all my belongings. The books will go to my godson, the canoes to the Horicon (A.k.a. Brant Lake) Historical Society and the bird houses to the flock of gold finches that inhabit my backyard. But the Lincoln pennies, the stamps and the flower pictures? So far I have not discovered anyone to whom I can bequeath these treasures.
So what have I, a long time inveterate collector, learned from this process? Only that, for much of our lives, we accrue and then suddenly we reach a point when we discard everything we have gathered.
Perhaps it is better to give than to receive. Therefore, with great pleasure, I give you this vignette. Enjoy the philosophy behind the story.
But please do not save it!