Archive for March, 2014

I Spy

This column first appeared in the February 2014 issue of Forsyth Family magazine:

Over the years, I have ended up with a number of collections – marbles, vintage postcards, blank green dice made out of Bakelite, restaurant creamers made out of clear glass, cubes and tiles imprinted with the letters of the alphabet, Mahjong tiles, brightly colored wood Parcheesi pieces, metal game pieces that look like space ships.

I can identify some of the elements that drew me to the items that became collections. I like old glass. I like the alphabet. I like colors that are both bright and warm.

In no instance did I set out to start a collection. When I saw something I liked that was also cheap at a yard sale or junk store, I would buy it. Another day, I would see another one and buy it. I still remember the day I came across my first space ship game piece – it was yellow and beautiful. It lived on its own until the day I found an Astron board game at a yard sale and discovered that space ship game pieces also come in silver, black, blue, red and green.

With the coming of eBay, I no longer had to leave the house to acquire new treasures. Some collections became classic collections in the sense that, somewhere along the way, I would start fretting about needing to fill in holes. Foghorn Leghorn glasses are far less common than Bugs and Daffy ones and finding one at an acceptable price took a while.

With other collections, it has been a matter of acquiring more and more of what are, in essence, all the same thing. If you have seen one clear glass Hazel Atlas restaurant creamer, you have pretty much seen them all. That’s OK with the restaurant creamers because they work really well for displaying marbles and Bakelite dice.

In other cases, acquiring more makes no rational sense. Sparkle Girl can’t understand why I keep buying space ship game pieces long after I came to own far more than one in every color. All I can say is that each new one brings me pleasure. Every time I find one at a price that I feel good about paying, I buy it. No matter how many I buy, opening a package and seeing more makes me happy.

Some of the space ship game pieces are on display. Others live in glass jars. Many of the items in my other collections also live in glass jars – vintage ones with glass lids. (That probably qualifies as another collection.)

For years, I have imagined using items in my collections to create works of art. With that in mind, I started buying wood boxes. (I guess that’s a collection, too.) The idea would be to do such things as glue Parcheesi pieces across the top of the box and use letter tiles and cubes to create pithy quotes along the bottom. On the inside of the box, I would paste images cut out from postcards or from vintage children’s books illustrated by such artists as Tibor Gergely. (I forgot about the children’s book collection until just now.) I could add little shelves in the box where I would glue a little space ship game piece or two. Elsewhere, Mahjong tiles and marbles in just the right places would look great.

The trouble with that idea is that, so far, I haven’t been able to bring myself to cut up any postcards or children’s books or to glue any of my treasures to a box. I keep thinking that, if I just buy more space ship game pieces, postcards, alphabet tiles and cubes, one day I will have enough to be willing to let go of some of them.

We’ll see.