MY LIFE - A collector of rare items
MY LIFE - A collector of rare items
Rhea is on vacation this week. This column was originally published in November, 2003.
A collector of rare items. That's what my father used to call me. It sounds so much nicer than pack rat. But I suppose a rose by any other name collects junk just the same.
Lest you think that puts me in the same league as those weird eccentrics that you read about in the paper now and then whose homes are packed to the ceiling with newspapers and trash, let me set the record straight. My trash is out at curbside every Thursday. I only keep things of sentimental value or that may prove useful at some later date. Granted, the distinction between trash and treasure is often vague, but it's a highly personal matter. I will cast no aspersions on your memorabilia if you will accord mine the same courtesy.
To my way of thinking, what determines the worth of a particular momento is your reaction when you look back at it. If it makes you smile or brings large chunks of memories from the past flooding in, letting you relive the moment as though you were there again, then it's well-worth the space it occupies and should be kept and treasured.
For example, wrapped in tissue paper and tucked away in a box, I have:
* A hairpiece made with the long locks I was forced to have cut when I was 13. I used Stanley glue to fashion three banana curls that I then attached to a bun. At 13 my hair was my crowning glory and the nuns may have forced me to cut it, but for all these years I have kept it. A small gesture of defiance, perhaps, but one that helped ease the pain.
* A red ribbon from second grade, worn by the student who placed first in class each week but meant to be turned back in again. God only knew if I could repeat the feat again in this century, so I kept it. And when I take it out I remember the lovely young nun whose method of teaching was to encourage curiosity, and how we learned to measure not by staying stuck behind our desks, but by being turned loose with rulers to measure various items around the classroom, and how our love of reading was nurtured by the establishment of a lending library on one shelf of the classroom closet. I somehow feel that if Sister Mary Jacqueline Rita knew, she would approve of my continued possession of the ribbon and the memories attached to it.
* The white flag, fashioned by my father and Sue Frechette's father from a piece of old bed sheet in June 1955 when Girl Scout Troop 39 went camping in Albion. The rusty little pinholes where it was tacked onto its wooden pole are still visible. Throwing that bit of history out would almost amount to desecration.
* A wishbone from a Thanksgiving turkey cooked sometime in the 1950s. Kept because you never know when you might really need a wish and it's always nice to know where your next wish is coming from.
* A religious picture given to "my beloved parents," with a letter dated February 9, 1951 and signed, "Yours sincierly, your dauter, Rhea R. Bouchard," lest they confuse me with some other "dauter Rhea" of their acquaintance.
* A Santa Claus whose arms and legs jerk up and down when the string is pulled, cut from a wooden cigar box with a little hand saw by my father when the cardboard one from the back of a cereal box fell apart and I felt bad. It was hand-painted with auto paint at the garage where my father worked. It's undated, but I was very young when he made it. It tells more about my father as a parent than I could ever describe with words.
* Genuine black felt Mickey Mouse ears representing a flight of whimsy the summer that I was 14. My sister Joan, our friend Yvette, and I all wore them. They were the last hurrah of the childhood we put behind us that year.
* The pink rosary beads that I received from Pope Pius XII with the nice little form letter thanking me for the letter I had written when I was around 9 years old wishing His Holiness well. I can still recall my mother's shocked "You wrote to WHO?" She was used to my corresponding with my aunts in upstate N.Y. and my uncles in the Navy, but this was a total shocker. Especially when I mentioned having written in pencil since it was neater to use than ink.
* I have Current Events newspapers from ninth grade, Girl Scout merit badges, the earrings I wore when I became godmother to my cousin Joey, and several report cards.
However, the most deeply moving keepsake of all is the diary given to me by friend Jackie at Christmas 1955. It covers the year 1956, the year of transition for me from a 13-year-old kid to a young lady a few months shy of 15. The year of greatest change in my whole life, documented in ink, each page sealed with a lipstick print to make it official. The first romance, the first kiss, the first dance, the first party, and the approach of the first heartbreak, not so much in the words written but in the volumes left unspoken between the lines. And to read it is to live again in that most fragile of times.
- Rhea Bouchard Powers is a writer form Cumberland.