I never set out to be a collector. Whenever I read about millionaires with fabulous private collections of art and sculpture, I thought, why not just keep a few pieces you really love and give the rest on loan to a museum or gallery so that others can share their beauty?
Yet, I find now that I do have collections. They’re not worth any money and probably no one else would want them. Most people in my age group have accumulated possessions they can’t bear to part with, despite moving homes and maybe even countries several times in their lives.
Who remembers that song of yesteryear: “Among My Souvenirs”? Part of the lyrics were: “Some letters tied with blue, a photograph or two, I find a rose from you, among my souvenirs.”
What we are collecting are memories. There are moments we want to hold on to forever and, when we handle these mementoes, they bring a smile, a tear, a bittersweet wave of nostalgia.
I have more than a thousand books, and nowhere to put them all. Many are paperbacks, yellowed pages and tattered covers. But, to throw them out would be like disposing of dear friends. Lots of poetry – some by almost-forgotten writers like Alice Duer Miller, Rupert Brooke, A.E. Housman, Dorothy Parker. Novels by Somerset Maugham, Evelyn Waugh, Hemingway, Steinbeck. Volumes of Jewish essays, which provide great divrei Torah. Books on philosophy, psychology, the craft of writing. They all represent my youth, when I discovered the world and the wonders it contained. No, I can’t throw them away!
Then there are the photos. They started out in albums, but there are too many and I’m too lazy. Beloved family no longer with us. Friends from long ago. Weddings. Babies, bright-eyed and dimpled. Rites of passage – first day at kindergarten and school, b’nai mitzvahs, graduations. Grandchildren. Holidays. They are all cherished, and overflow from drawers and cabinets.
Bric-à-brac. One earring (the other lost), given by my first boyfriend. Small children’s drawings. Their clumsy efforts at making you things from wood or papier mâché. A challah cloth with crooked stitches. A letter on a torn page that proclaims in shaky Hebrew letters, “Savta, I love you.” How could you ever toss those?
I also have a collection of shells and rocks. Most were gifts from grandchildren who wanted to give me something in return for the toys I gave them. There is a pinecone. There are stones I gathered at the Dead Sea on my sister’s last visit, when we spent a perfect, quiet day together, exchanging memories of our parents and siblings, our childhood, the dreams we realized and the ones we lost along the way. All precious. All irreplaceable.
“Get rid of the clutter,” we’re told. Not me. I shall go on collecting mementoes and memories until I die. And I hope my children, even then, will save a few of them. Because some things are worth more than money.
Dvora Waysman is a Jerusalem-based author. She has written 14 books, including The Pomegranate Pendant, which was made into a movie, and her latest novella, Searching for Sarah. She can be contacted at [email protected] or through her blog dvorawaysman.com.