Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hole in the Head

"Cute bag," I said to Faith as she swung a messenger bag over her head. The bag bore a charming cityscape design in blue and black; my favorite colors.

"You gave it to me, Mommy," she said. She placed the bag across her body and I watched as it settled at just the right place, easily accessible by a hand reaching for a wallet.

"I did?" I starred at the perfect Timbuk2 bag that would go beautifully with everything in my wardrobe (black t-shirts, blue jeans). Suddenly, I felt as conflicted as a woman who had given up her child for adoption. How could I have let my baby go? But, my dear daughter has it now. Obviously, she cares for it and has given it a good home.

I must've bequeathed it in a weak moment, realizing I already had dozens of backpacks and messenger bags piled up on a closet shelf. And Faith likely had been carrying a purse of her own, one with an opening easily pick-pocketed. Surely, it was a sense of motherly protection that prompted my handing over such an outstanding bag.

Afterward, while still longing for that-which-was-given-away, I pondered my difficulty with relinquishing things. I wouldn't call myself a hoarder; after all, there are no piles of newspapers blocking doorways, or mason jars stacked along basement stairs. But, truth be told (And where else but on a blog could one have a chance to use that phrase?), I do possess a number of collections that cause me to question my state of mind.

I think I'll blame its beginning on my other child, Jill, for it was she who thought it would be good for her mother to start a collection of salt and pepper shakers. Heaven knows why she came to this conclusion; perhaps it was a dark, cold, Chicago February and she worried her mother might launch one of her typical ban-the-blues enterprises.

"Look, Mommy," she had said as she handed me a box. A lift of the lid revealed a dozen pair of miniature people, animals, and objects, all with one or several holes in their heads. "When you're bored [who, me?]," she said, "you can go antique shopping and add more to your collection."

I was delighted. Tasks, goals, what could be better? Carefully, I lined up the Noah's Ark along window sills. Then, I added "scour shops for s&ps" to my To-Do List. For a few Sundays, I performed as a true collector, walked carefully among dusty do-dads (tchotchkes really, but you know me and alliteration), holding my bulky tote at my side to avoid breakage, and selected pairs of s&ps to join the others.

This worked well until the day I realized that dusting every little hand, foot, hat, basket, and whatever of that crew would add hours to my day. Without notifying my well-meaning child, I returned every last one to their original nesting place and stored it on a basement shelf. Of course, I couldn't donate or regift my collection for Jill might label me ungrateful and avoid future presents. So in their box they remain.

Sadly, it didn't stop with the salt-and-pepper shakers. Other hard-to-part-with collections stuff shelves: water bottles, pens, notebooks, sunglasses, knitted caps, and jackets. Each stockpile begins the same way: I seek something that will be perfect for task at hand. A water bottle that can easily be opened with thumb and finger, a pen that smoothly glides across the page, a spiral notebook that opens and lies flat, sunglasses that protect my eyes but make me look movie star-ish, a cap that does not reduce my head to bowling ball appearance, and a jacket perfect for every seasonal temperature.

Soon, each of the above loses its luster. It misrepresented itself. It was clumsy, leaked, bled through, or made me look funny. Into a bin the original goes. Then comes the delightful search and purchase of its replacement, and replacement, and replacement. Somehow, I cannot toss the early ones away. I worry they might wind up in a landfill (even though I couldn't identify or locate one in my neighborhood.) I fear that if I pass it on to someone else, they might not care for it as I believe it deserves. And, in the case of my Timbuk2 bag (just to remind you how all of this started and to bring a satisfying full circle ending), would I regret giving away something that was so perfect for me?

You see my dilemma. Instead of putting myself through all of that angst, I've obviously decided to just hang onto the items purchased. Except of course for that messenger bag that my first born wheedled away from her vulnerable mother. Perhaps I can persuade her to swap it for a different one in my collection? Maybe this one, its blue and black, but lacks a space for a water bottle. Think Faith would go for that?