I am a collector.
I come from a long line of collectors, you see.
My grandparents had to be cut off after going to one too many estate sales. They would buy a whole box full of “treasures” just for one little piece. Not to admire. Not to sell. Just to own. (Years later, my grandmother took up oil painting and started painting the furniture. The antique furniture. Nothing is sacred.)
My grandma (the other side of the family) saved all the dried out flower arrangements she was ever given in the 80’s and 90’s. In the same decade, my grandpa (God bless his German soul) collected used tires, lawnmowers and nurse’s shoes. Women’s nursing shoes. The white ones with the thick soles. He never offered an explanation. He just started wearing them.
My parents throw things out just for the sake of getting rid of things. Maybe this skips a generation?
Anyway, I am a collector. I collect raw materials: paper, pens, blank journals, fabric and patterns, paint, crayons, spices and herbs (I can’t write “herbs and spices” without thinking of KFC), cookie sprinkles, tea bags…
I can probably add some more later but they have one thing in common: every item in that list is used to make something else. To create. Not that I have ever “used up” anything from that list without immediately replacing what little I have actually used. No, no. In fact, I’m somewhat methodical in my replacement timing and strategy, keeping in mind cost and possible future use.
I have other collections. Unframed photos, meant for a scrapbook or album. Recipe books for meals not yet eaten. Heck, my stack of unread books is almost to the point of being overwhelming.
I collect movies on Netflix. My queue is over 300 movies long. I’ll never, ever, not in a million years watch them all. I’d like to fancy that I don’t have the time but you and I both know that I do. But I’m not always in the mood for what they choose to send so it sits on top of my TV until I’m ready. (Romantic Comedy and Documentary, I’m talking to you.)
I collect books on Goodreads. 335 books on my “to read” shelf. Most of them recommended by someone else. And then what do I do at the library? I find 3 or 4 books NOT on the list and try to read those first.
And we all know about my sock and underwear collection (times three people).
I might have a problem.
Maybe “collector” isn’t the right label for me. Maybe I get to be a hoarder.
The point of this (and there is a point) is that this week I have collected something else. Something new.
I am in an advanced stage of “Don’t give a shit”. It’s chronic. If not terminal. I really just don’t care.
Now, this isn’t a bad thing. Not at all. Actually it’s a good thing.
I have given up on stressing about things that don’t matter. Seriously. I yell at the kids less. I breathe deeply when Ella is jacking around in the van instead of putting on her seat belt. I used to stare her down and make threats. And yell. Amelia peed in my bed last night. She’s been sans pullup since early December and pretty proud of it. I don’t know what happened but it involved an extensive bed change very late at night. Don’t care. Did laundry and cleaned the mattress today. Doesn’t matter.
The table is covered in crayons, leftover from a before bed coloring spree. The littles made for me a dozen pictures in the span of thirty minutes. I taped them all to the closet door. Every one. Ella and I purchased and played Mouse Trap today and played for almost 2 hours. She was home sick today. On the one day that was supposed to be my kid free day. We watched an hour of Looney Tunes and then Smurfs. We napped. We made jello.
There was a time, just a few months ago, when things like crumbs on the counter bugged me. Not that I wanted to do anything about it. I didn’t like it. And I was resentful that if I wanted the counter clean, I was the one to do it. (And, frankly, I’m having a hard time giving up that resentment but that’s a different day.) So the crumbs would sit there. And I would get pissed every time I walked by them. I could see them in my sleep because I knew that they would still be there in the morning.
And now? I care so little about the crumbs, that I sweep them into my hand and drop them into the sink.
Makes no sense.
Anyway, there is a change happening. The littles can see it. They don’t know what it is but they are enjoying it. I play. And I haven’t played in years. We read. We all read a lot now. They see me reading while they are playing and making messes. And I don’t care about the mess because I’m into my book. I’m cooking again and forcing them to eat what’s there because “it’s on the menu” and, because of school, they can wrap their brains around it.
And it’s all because I stopped. I’ve stopped making my heart race with anxiety and worry and anger.
I’m collecting again.
I’m collecting memories with my girls. I never want them to remember how I turned a room upside down looking for a puzzle piece and throwing a minor tantrum in the process. But I am hoping that they remember the day that mommy played UNO all afternoon and how we all drank peppermint tea and used the “fancy sugar” to sweeten it. I hope they remember watching movies and eating popcorn. Dressing up all the dolls to play school where I am never allowed to be the teacher. Making brownies and eating the batter off the spatula.
This is what happens when you stop to sweep the crumbs off the counter.
And get on with life.