“Everybody collects something.”
At least, this was the belief of the man across the table at a recent dinner we attended. He had been talking about the various things he has collected over the years. Then he went on to ask the rest of us, “What do you collect?”
Since this was a geology gathering, the obvious answer for several people was “rocks.” Oddly enough, the answer usually came from the spouses, not the geologists. Evidently geologists don’t admit to collecting rocks; they claim to acquire rocks for purposes of research. Never mind that, to a non-geologist, the difference between the two is not readily apparent.
Other people at the table talked about collecting coins, stamps, glassware, books, and marbles. Handy, I suppose; you would always have a few extras in case you lost yours. One might collect stuffed animals, either the toy kind or the I-shot-it-myself kind. A few women (Elizabeth Taylor comes to mind) appear to collect ex-husbands.
I know a woman who collects frogs. Well, not actual frog frogs; stuff with frogs on it and stuff shaped like frogs. Some church historian somewhere probably collects collection plates. My grandkids collect Pokemon cards, especially the oldest one, who has hundreds of them and is frighteningly knowledgeable about them and will probably use them to finance his college education.
When the conversation came around to me, I couldn’t think of anything I collect. Not purposely, anyway. To a disinterested observer glancing at my desk, I suppose it might appear as if I collect paper. Anyone looking more closely in various parts of the house might guess that I collect cobwebs, or maybe dust bunnies. (At least collecting dust bunnies isn’t quite the same as collecting dust.)
Honestly, though, I try not to collect things just for the sake of having them. It can get out of hand way too fast. You buy some cute little thing that has picture of a teddy bear or a cactus or a rhinoceros on it, and then you get a second one because it goes with the first one, and before you know it people are giving you the stuff as gifts, and bingo, you end up with cacti or rhinoceri all over the house, and you have to build on another room.
So I don’t necessarily agree that everybody collects something. But the man across the table, to the couple of us who claimed not to collect anything, asked a further question: “What is it you have that you always want another one of?”
Well, when he put it that way, I could say that I collect stories. That’s what I always want another of. That’s what interests me the most. Any time I read an odd item in the paper, or hear about some dramatic event, or learn some random bit of trivia, I always want to know the story behind it. Who did it? Why? What happened before that? What happened after that? There’s always a story, even if I have to make it up myself.
Stories. That’s what I collect. Each one is unique, there’s always room for one more, and they never have to be dusted.