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Little Spouse on the Prairie: Collecting Dust

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Valerie talks about her compulsion to collect.

As listeners know by now, I like stuff. Little figurines, doodads, knick-knacks, and tchotchkes of all kinds are special to me. Maybe this fascination with collections stems from my childhood when I didn’t have many extras. Maybe it’s an early symptom of a hoarding disorder.

Whatever the reason, I like to sort similar items and display them all together. My inner self seems to be saying, “Look! I couldn’t afford a rolling pin 20 years ago, and now I have 19!” Never mind that I’ve never rolled out dough in my life.

My friends have to be careful about purchasing duplicate gifts for me because if I obtain two of something, it’s the start of a collection. That’s probably the main reason my husband panicked so much when I got that second used baby grand piano. And come to think of it, that may also explain why he looked so worried throughout my third pregnancy.

In addition to my assortment of rolling pins, I also accumulate canning jars, autographs, dishes, aprons, books, picture frames, globes, lampshades, snow globes, watches, miniature figurines, and vintage suitcases.

Though my collections burgeoned at a nice rate prior to having children, that healthy growth stalled out once my firstborn made an appearance. One might assume that the reason for this falling off was that my attention was so focused on my darling baby, Millicent. She was and is my darling, but that’s not the reason for the unfortunate decrease.

Things started breaking. Even before I gave birth, plates fell from my hands and shattered. Chairs collapsed right beneath me. Picture frames dropped off the walls. We’d come home from a weekend away and find that while we’d been gone, the fridge had quit, the fence had fallen over, and the potatoes had rotted out the bottom of the primitive bin.

When Millie was born, the loss accelerated. She threw a block at a lamp and shattered the glass shade. She popped the head off my porcelain doll from Germany. She tore the fringe off my antique curtains while pretending to be Tarzan. She started peeling at a little corner of the damask wallpaper in the living room and went from there.

When my son, Dashiell, came along a few years later, I had childproofed the house. I was prepared for everything except hula hoops. Millie got one as a gift to help her celebrate her brother’s birth. That took out two ceiling fixtures and the face of a clock before it got lost. Though Millie searched, we never could figure out what happened to that delightful toy.

Dashiell broke the car door handle, the tractor sprinkler, my cell phone, the dryer, three balusters, and the cabriole leg of the green wing chair. One day, he and a little friend crushed up two family-sized bags of potato chips and hauled the crumbs in their toy dump trucks and bulldozed the greasy bits across the rugs. This was all before he turned three.

Then I married Joel. Obviously, I needed a handyman to repair the ruins. Though he was sneakier about his destruction, to my surprise, Joel actually added to the mayhem. Shortly after our wedding, I walked into the basement storage room to see one of my favorite music boxes (oh, yeah, I also collect music boxes) perched on a shelf next to a tube of super glue. Upon looking more closely, I noticed that the head of the little figure on top was facing backward.

One of my most commonly used phrases these days is, “Well, that lasted a hundred years.” I really have no hope, at least until Clementine leaves home and Joel passes on, of reestablishing forward progress in building my collections.

Truth be told, I have, when dusting shelves, actually experienced moments of gratitude that life has shattered so many cups and saucers. Life’s accumulations seem to follow a bell curve, and it’s possible, I’ve come to the apex of mine. I don’t want my children to fight over the rolling pins and snow globes after I’m gone, so I’ll start labeling everything here in the next few years. It’s only a matter of time before they start calling dibs.

Follow Little Spouse at facebook.com/littlespouseontheprairie or on Twitter at SpouseOnThePrairie@ValerieKuchera . Have a great week.