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Friday, March 5, 2010

Are you a Pack Rat like me?

Are You a Pack Rat?

I’ve often been accused of being a “pack rat”, a person who hoards what others would consider dispensable. I admit I have a hard time saying no to free stuff. And I have been known to hold on to “mementos”. I would classify these things as objects I have assigned emotional significance to for their ability to conjure other places and times. The question is whether this is to a degree healthy and if so when does behaviors of mere collecting cross the line into the realm of obsessive. I have been enamored by pieces of art as possessing singular qualities and of antiques as time travelers. These statements for most may seem rational. Where however is the dividing line between things possessing value and those possessing none. For most a bottom line dollar value usually will act as the benchmark. These benchmarks however are created by an items rarity and desirability to collectors. So that means if you’re a collector of stamps and the perforation marks on a particular set are on the top verses the bottom, it could mean a significant difference in monetary value. These things are far more easily distinguished as valuable by long standing traditions. It is the other things I have the most trouble with. The everyday stuff that creates the backgrounds of our lives that in the end is discarded, overshadowed by the new.

While going through the shed one weekend I found some odds and ends that had lain forgotten for sometime. From in the darkness were pulled into the light of day the once prized possessions of childhood. It was unclear how these things that had once brought such joy to my children’s faces had been relegated to their lonely fate. These items seemingly had undergone a strange transmutation in their absence. Locked in the storehouse of memory, they had become mementoes of a forgotten time. Priding myself on my depth of memory, I was surprised I had not noticed these times slipping away. As I looked on these things, in their reflection I saw flashes of dormant memories that filled my head. The Pogo stick leaning inconspicuously in the corner, though slightly rusted, retained much of its lime green paint. Its molded plastic handgrips showed the well used wear of a thousand sun filled afternoons. This had belonged to my daughter Eirean: now a college junior. I thought of those days where she would distract me from what ever it was I was doing to make me watch her jump up and down the block. I remember how at first I would be annoyed by the intrusions but quickly would be made happy; drawn in by her exuberant joy.

Another item, a Hot wheels bike helmet that belonged to my son Collin. I remember how he loved to ride up and down the block on his big wheel with the image of fire emblazoned on his on his helmet. If he had to wear a helmet it would at least be the coolest one. When I showed it to Collin now a high school sophomore, he was unmoved. For him it was just such a long time ago. From my perspective only moments had passed. I asked him if he didn’t want to keep it, as he might in some future day want to see in it, what I saw. Predictably his age required the casting off of notions of childhood. Such is the transient nature of youth that it will always be ready to cast off yesterday to make ready for the next step. As for me it was sad to trash these accidental mementos for they had the ability to dredge such memories. However there was no use left to these Items beyond that, so off to the trash they went.

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