Collections / by Deborah Clague


I was recently given a ride in a colleague's car and, upon entrance, let out a gasp of delight. Her ceiling was covered in buttons that spanned decades of culture (both pop and otherwise). My favourites were those promoting the legendary (but now defunct) Canadian department store Eaton's and one of Pope John Paul II that appeared to be blessing me from above. It got me thinking of the things people collect. Items that can form a physical manifestation of time and provide curios insight into one's life and true personality.

In my last post I wrote about collecting books published in the 1980s that were basically the literary "gateway drug" for those yet to discover Tolkien. These books not only provide nostalgic comfort for me today but have shaped my development from someone who happened to demonstrate artistic talent in high school to a professional that has been awarded, exhibited and published internationally. I value the magic they have enhanced my life with and I hope whomever inherits them from me in the future is put under the same spell. 

Although most might not understand it.

For that is another aspect of things people collect: one person's treasure could well be another person's trash. I have paid the equivalent of a few mortgage payments on acquiring the original series of those books (including hard-to-find editions that were well-worn, weathered and in worse condition than newspaper lining the bottom of a bird cage). To most it is a foolhardy venture. But what value does one place on memories? What price does one place on that link to a beloved past life? 

My late father's last collection, on the other hand, didn't really cost anything. In addition to hockey memorabilia collected in his youth and international currency collected when we'd travel, my father also had a prized hoard of keychains that he found while working as a driver for Adesa Auctions during retirement. Some were provided by dealerships that offered them as tokens of appreciation but most were found in vehicles that had been seized. I recall visiting my parents and having my dad excitedly share his latest bounty with me, which he'd sort and file according to make, model and perceived "rarity". At the time, I secretly questioned his sanity. But now I appreciate it all. My father was an amazing athlete, world traveller and loved cars. His collections are a tangible thread to his existence.  

As my colleague's buttons show me that she is the fun, unconventional person that I believed her to be throughout our office interaction. 

As my books – where storylines involved discovering new worlds and slaying giants – remind me that my adventurous spirit was always part of my DNA. 

And as my dad's keychains tell me that the little things in life gave him the most happiness.