Thursday, January 5, 2012

(borderline) hoarder stories.

Just in case you haven’t gleaned this information from some of my previous stories, I’d better tell you: I was a weird kid. Really weird. My parents will concur. You already know about my childhood fear of Number Munchers and house fires. This story is about how I almost became a hoarder.

I was one of those kids who had a really tough time getting rid of anything. My parents would push me to clean my room and get rid of the stuffed animals I didn’t play with, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was convinced that my toys had feelings, and they would be devastated if they thought I didn’t care about them any longer. I should mention that this was waaaaay before Toy Story, and thank goodness: if I had seen Toy Story when I was that age, I wouldn’t have ever gotten rid of anything. Ever.

For a few years, my parents had an edict: for every new toy I got, I had to get rid of two. Big surprise: I struggled with that, as well. I didn’t want any of my toys to have hurt feelings, so I always chose to get rid of Legos or something similar: something without a little face and little eyes that would look at me sadly as if to say, “Why don’t you LOVE me anymore?!”

As a result, I kept a lot of silly little toys that I didn’t play with simply because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings. I improved over the years: I convinced myself that toys don’t have feelings, and I got better at cleaning out my toybox for the church rummage sale. I do notice myself slipping back into my old habits every now and again, though: not too long ago, I bought a ceramic cat at Goodwill just because it was looking at me with HUGE BLUE EYES and undoubtedly needed a home.
On top of my weird imaginary guilt for toys, I collected things. And by “things,” I mean EVERYTHING. I kept my collections in plastic baby wipe containers that I swiped from my mom. I had a little sister who was four years younger and a little brother who was six years younger, so there was a time when I could have as many empty baby wipe containers as my little heart desired.

My collections started off small: I would keep the interesting rocks I’d find in our driveway or at the lake. I would pick up shell fragments from the lake, too, and stash them in one of my plastic boxes. (As we lived nowhere near an ocean, I had to take what I could get when it came to collecting shells.) I collected those sticky milkweed pods that grew in the ditches every August. Much to my chagrin, Mom wouldn’t let me bring those inside, so they had to sit in a pile on the lawn until they finally disintegrated. I collected beer bottle caps that I found at the parks (my parents were less than thrilled with that collection).

My collecting didn’t end with the beer bottle caps, though. Much to my parents’ dismay, I developed a new fascination: crayfish. 
They're so cute!
We had all sorts of those weird little creatures living in the stream not too far from our house. On summer days, I would walk down to the culvert and collect their discarded claws. I never actually saw a live crayfish, but I was captivated by their claws. This collection went right in one of the plastic baby wipe boxes, and you can imagine how badly it stunk. My parents begged me to get rid of it, but I was reluctant to part with my claws. Eventually, I did, and it was either the result of a parental threat or a bribe. It may have taken a little bit of crustacean personification and guilt: “What if the crayfish comes looking for his claw? He will be SO SAD when he can’t find it, and it’s because you took it away from where he left it! You’d better go put it back. Right now.”

As I grew older, I thinned out my collections. I threw away the beer bottle caps, and I put the rock collection out to pasture (except for the really cool rocks, some of which I still have). Of course, I couldn’t just go cold turkey. My next great collection would be erasers.

I know what you’re thinking: erasers? Could I think of anything less interesting to collect? Not just any erasers, my friends: FANCY erasers. The erasers I collected came in every color and every shape you could possibly imagine. It started in elementary school when my teachers would give out tiny erasers shaped like cats if you got As on your quizzes. I LOVED those little cat erasers. I never erased with them – I had one of those Pink Pet erasers for that. My collection just mushroomed from there: I bought erasers at book fairs, my aunt gave me erasers for my birthday… it was outrageous. Even more outrageous is the fact that I FOUND my entire eraser collection last time I was home.
I see an eraser unicorn, eraser french fries, and an eraser
sneaker. That, my friends, is just the surface.
I had a few other collections that I didn’t really control, as well. For example, I was considered a collector of snowglobes for a while. Somebody thought it was a good idea to bring me a snowglobe back from a trip, and then EVERYBODY brought me a snowglobe from their trips. I didn’t mind, of course, but since elementary schoolers can’t really buy anything, I didn’t think of it as MY collection: my relatives were collecting the snow globes for me. I didn’t consider it to be my collection unless it was me who went out and acquired the lion’s share of it: I was certainly the only one out there scouting for crayfish claws, so I EARNED that collection!

I’ve had an assortment of other mini-collections over the years: I spent a few years amassing penguins, and a few more years with Kermit the Frog. Just to be clear, though, I’m not a REAL collector. I don’t go searching out rare and unusual Muppet memorabilia (or whatever). If I saw something goofy that I liked (most likely at Goodwill), I would buy it and give it a home on one of my shelves. Who knows what the term is for that… financially irresponsible, maybe?

Nowadays, I wouldn’t say that I collect much of anything. I have quite a few owls around my apartment, but that’s because I like owls. Same thing goes for little plastic dinosaurs and Batman st uff. Not a collection: just little awesome things that I’ve acquired over the years.
Fun fact: this dinosaur came from the prize drawer
on my very first visit to the dentist.
There is one collection, though, that I still build upon: socks. Again, you may wonder: socks and erasers? Why don’t I get a life? To that, I say: I know I need a life in the worst way, but my socks are wonderful.

I think we can blame my love for colorful socks on genetics. Grandma Sheila has worn bright socks for as long as I can remember. She worked in the school kitchen for many years, and they had to wear white shirts, pants, and shoes. Grandma wanted to wear some color, so she did: on her socks!

I started buying my own colorful socks when I was 14 and had a summer job. That summer, I learned to be a connoisseur of interesting socks: my friend Allison and I discovered that ShopKo had the best selection of exciting socks, so that’s where we went. We had socks with octopi, pineapples, crabs… anything you could imagine, we had a pair of socks to go with it.

Ever since then, I have worn nothing but colorful socks. When I was preparing for a job interview (for the job I have now), I was looking for a pair of black socks. Turns out I have no black socks. I have no grown-up person socks whatsoever. I settled for a pair of socks with little candy corns on them. They must’ve done the trick since I did get the job, after all.

My sock collection is easily the most extensive amalgamation of anything I’ve ever had. Everyone gives me crazy socks, and I wear them happily. My favorite socks are Halloween socks, and I wear them year-round: as a matter of fact, I’m wearing socks with sparkly spiderwebs and lime green spiders right now. Every year, right after Halloween, my mom goes Halloween sock scouting for me. She gets them for a pittance, and paying fifty cents for a pair of socks makes them just that much better.
A mere fraction of my current sock
 collection. Yes, those are sushi socks.
So now you’ve had a crash course in my latent hoarding tendencies. I’m not worried, though; I think it was just a phase that was (mercifully) nipped in the bud. Besides, I’ve watched enough episodes of Hoarders that I’ve scared myself into never EVER becoming like that. I’ll stick with the socks and little plastic dinosaurs.
And some big plastic dinosaurs, too.

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