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People who collect things and those who don't can be friends

Sunday, January 31, 2010; C03

Today we hear from a collector. We collect, too. At the moment, we collect bicycles, and we have run out of room. Collecting books and match covers makes much more sense.

A funny thing happened on the way to the antique store. I remembered what my wife often said to me: "What will I do with all this junk if something should happen to you?"

Do you collect? Are you married to a non-collector? Does your mate give you that "my God, not another" look every time you add a little something to your collection? Is "What do you want that for?" often spoken in not-so-endearing terms. Or, "How much did that cost? You don't have any more room."

She just doesn't understand.

I am a collector, and I am married to a non-collector. I have always been a collector. I have a collector's gene in me. Maybe I got it from my mother? My father? I collected comic books when I was a kid. They would be worth a fortune if I had kept them. She calls that "the big 'if.' " I also enjoyed going to the library when I was little (I still do). There's something about books. I like books. I've always liked books. I like to look at books, and I like to have them. She just doesn't understand. Getting books at the library is fine with her. "I merely want to read books. I don't want to pay for them or to collect them," she states. Oh, well.

I learned early to concentrate on one subject, not to collect just anything for collecting sake. (Am I really writing this?) How does it go? I started with books in my interest area, added postcards, antique bottles, match covers and related paper memorabilia. But I am a neat collector. There's a place for everything, and everything has its place. I even dust every once in a while. True, my area looks like a library and a museum, but, what the hay, I don't drink or chase wild women. I also stay out of her hair. You know, out from under her feet.

Now, I don't spend all our earnings on collecting. She has sufficient moneys to buy her worthless things, like clothes and shoes. I tell her, "At least my junk doesn't wear out or go out of style." Again she repeats, "What will I do with that junk if something should happen to you?" How can I relate to her the satisfaction I get from collecting? She just doesn't understand.

She really doesn't realize how lucky she is. She does put up with me, though. She attends shows with me, and we stop at every antique mall, not her favorite form of relaxation. She brings her library book, reads and waits for me. It might be one or three hours, but there she is -- waiting. Maybe, I am the lucky person.

-- Richard W. Fulton, Fairfax

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