What catches a collector’s attention and prompts the impulse to accumulate? Depending on the individual, it might be a melody, a clever cartoon, a poem, an unfolding drama, or a special object that stirs the imagination.
I was born and raised in a small rural town in Western New York. I lived near my mother’s childhood home where I enjoyed many happy hours in the company of my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Our families would often gather to play cards, bake, do laundry, or celebrate special occasions. I loved to sit quietly and listen to the grown-ups tell stories of times both present and past. The stories I recall don’t feature faraway places or extraordinary events. They are of ordinary people, of mischief and mishap, often humorous and sometimes sad.
Allow me to introduce you to an elite group of which I am not a member: serious gamers. Yes, I’ve been known to play the occasional game of Scrabble, and in my youth I devoted a week one summer to playing Monopoly with a cousin. Add in a few random games of Checkers, Parcheesi, and Go Fish, and that about covers it. So when I say “serious gamer,” I’m referring to someone like the extraordinary Sid Sackson.
Do you know Winnie the Pooh? When you were very small, someone dear to you may have read the adventures of Winnie the Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood as you drifted off to sleep. Perhaps you were given a Pooh Bear to cuddle.
Stroll into nearly any home, school, grocery store, or gas station and, if you look around, you’ll begin to notice books everywhere. I say “if you look” because books have become so commonplace that they barely register in the mind’s eye. Through fiction or fact, verse or prose, art or photography, books exist to spark your interest, ignite your imagination, and propel you on a journey of the mind.
Recently, a museum guest asked me to tell her about the most interesting question I’d received as director of the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play. The answer was easy—I take great satisfaction in uncovering some elusive fragment of information that helps a researcher resolve an issue or solve a puzzle.
The signs are everywhere: YARD SALE, GARAGE SALE, ESTATE SALE, MOVING SALE. Like the sirens of Greek mythology, their sweet song proves irresistible. My sister and I spend many a weekend chasing down sales—a favorite leisure activity. I don’t consider myself a collector but a treasure hunter caught by the whimsical item that seizes my attention, making an almost instantaneous connection for reasons both known and unknown. I enjoy the hunt and am equally pleased to find something for my brother or sister, both collectors with specific interests.
Time can be as regular as clockwork or supple as our shifting perceptions of it. Each year I note the winter solstice and hold onto the certainty that each day afterward is growing longer, minute by minute. As the days lengthen, I inevitably succumb to the seduction of the gardening catalogs that “like clockwork” begin to arrive in my mailbox. Though the ground remains buried beneath drifts of snow, these harbingers of spring fill my thoughts with images of lush greenery, exuberant blossoms, and succulent fruit.
How many times have you been told that “you can’t judge a book by its cover”? As a librarian, I fully endorse this sentiment. I would, however, like to create a related maxim: you can’t judge a closed book by its fore-edge. What’s a fore-edge, you ask? In book-speak, that’s the name for the edge opposite the spine. Hidden beneath the gilt or marbled covering on some books’ fore-edges, you just may discover a most exquisite watercolor.