August 11, 2007

When she became fed up with plastic Indian headdresses and other trinkets, my mother demanded that my brother and I choose something more worthwhile to collect when we visited touristic destinations. My brother chose keychains; my grandfather made a bulletin board with an array of hooks for him, and it hung on a wall in our bedroom displaying his keychain keepsakes. I chose patches. I don’t know if this is still the case, but in those days, every little tourist trap in the Rockies had its own embroidered patch. They were like mile marker merit badges. My mother sewed them on banners of felt, and I kept them folded in a drawer. I don’t know where they are now.


In the Denver summers, our garden was the touristic destination of plagues of grasshoppers. As I recall it, there used to be more grasshoppers on this earth twenty-five years ago. We had a plastic pitcher, the kind with a lid that twists one way to pour water and ice together through a large opening and twists the other to pour water only through a grate. It was perfect for collecting grasshoppers because the large opening for ice cubes was big enough to stuff in a grasshopper while the other grated opening held them in while still supplying them air (we were selectively humane). My brother and I would lie in the cool dirt between the rows of green and yellow beans and pluck grasshoppers from the beanleaf canopy above us. They spit their tobacco juice on us, but we were relentless. The inside of the pitcher was coated with them, and the bottom was deep with them; en masse they smelled mealy and vile.


Before I began the forced collection of patches, I once used my meager funds to buy a little leather sack full of assorted marbles at a tourist trap. They were mostly cats’ eyes with one larger shooter. I’ve never played the game of “marbles” in my life, but I often poured the sack out on my bed and admired these as objects of beauty. Not long after that purchase, my mother got a one-time job cleaning out a house that renters had abandoned in a mess. My brother and I were allowed to scavenge through the loot, taking what we found valuable. I found a large glass jar full of what seemed like misshapen marbles. They were all sort of an artificial glassy blue color and not entirely spherical. (I think now that they were some sort of glass slag from a metallurgical process.) I made the mistake of adding them to my marbles, but the new marbles were legion and without personality. Like weeds, they sapped my other beauties of all their goodness, andI soon didn’t look at any of the marbles at all.


5 Responses to “Collections”

  1. Dave Bonta Says:

    That’s a very affecting collection of anecdotes.

  2. Kryna Says:

    Love it! Great stories!

  3. ale Says:

    “selectively humane”…perfect way to describe children’s approach to bugs. The anecdotes are perfect and you made me miss my brother very much! Insects, marbles and collections were intrinsic parts of our childhood.

  4. sheepdays Says:

    Thanks for the props. It wasn’t until after I wrote these down that I began to see the common theme that the more I collected, the less value I attributed to the collection.

  5. LambSoup Says:

    dat’s what I’m talkin bout

    Brett, man, I totally see you in Sojourners, and that other rag your plagiarizer publishes, and Weavings, especially stuff about Iglesia Presbyteriana, to name a few.

    Three words:

    shameless self-promotion

    Voila: your good writing, published.

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