You can’t take it with you. The past few months, I have been involved with the liquidation of a very large collection of dolls, left by their owner after his death. This probably sounds odd, so let me explain, I too am a collector, or what my family calls “Expensive Hoarding.” Regardless, of the name, they are the souvenirs of my life, and have helped me hold onto, rediscover and define who I am. Budget the cost against $200 an hour therapy, and I believe I have come out ahead, loved and happy, even if my $100 collection of Bullwinkle and Rocky plastic coins from potato chips in 1968, makes you shake your head. At least I can hold them, and laugh, seeing the face of my long since gone wonderful neighbor Velma, drinking hill top fruit juice when she opened a bag, and found a new one. A shrink, like the advice is invisible, and the money gone just as quick.
Nevertheless, between the why things are important, is the almighty cost, from someone else’s view point, and the justification in the first place. When we are gone from life, family members look at this very curiously, selfishly and short sided. Instead of seeing the joy in what made their family member happy, the majority choose to see the “how much is it worth financially” factor. It is an ironic notation; many of them saw the living family member in exactly the same way.
After my parents passed away from a basic life, having left no sums of liquid capital or objects de art to be passed down, I was comforted by what was left. For example, there was a button box with hundreds of loose buttons, and as I looked at them I smiled, remembering outfits and coats long gone, when and where they were worn and the delight when they had been new. There were flashlights without batteries, screws and pens, and notes of reminding, for directions, instructions and just love. They couldn’t take them to Heaven when they left, and I am so very glad.
Those memories were my parents, meaningless to anyone else. Those other family members, who felt the same way, claimed their treasures and felt renewed – well most of them anyway. So that brings me to the world I live in. If I were to sit down and actually try to calculate the cost of everything I surround myself with on shelves, curios, cabinets and boxes, I would be dead from the trying alone. Instead, I look at the why; find the smile, tear and warmth in my heart, which will always be the reason.
There needs to be a special estate lawyer who looks at the meaning of what is left behind, instead of the value, and makes sure it goes where it needs to go. I know the word lawyer negates it, and greed over rules it, but it is still a nice dream. Who cares if a doll was bought for $1800? It was on a day when a daughter was emotionally shattered, and remembered I was there for her, and would never leave her side. Every time the doll is looked at, that is what is rembered. Likewise, the $150 paid for a once retail $9 house of toy squirrels, never been opened from 1979, and the bond a mother, daughter and grandmother will forever have, there will never be a monetary value high enough for those memories.
I would like to look down upon my life after I am gone, and see my family and friends as they discover, groan, and laugh and at one point, hope someone will say, “I remember her telling me she had this as a little girl, and never wanted to forget that time camping” or maybe “She bought me one just like it, probably cost a lot, but it made her so happy, and she laughed herself, telling me how grandma got it for $1 mailing in a cereal box top back in the 1960’s.” These will be the people who knew and loved me, and they are the ones who deserve to have all I am.
Sure, there are over the top dolls in outfits from designers at the time, no longer known or recognized, and in the day I spent more than I want to admit. However, when I see them now, I hear the laughter of a group of adults enjoying a convention, a meal or a drink, laughing at en era now gone, in a world ending at Armageddon speed and sadness. We found friendship and bonds tighter than blood, through miniatures and recollections.
I reinforced my beliefs for equality in all people; saw how a simple piece of plastic could help in an auction for need, or at the end when cancer or AIDS took them home too soon. The sparkle I see in a sequin gown that would have bought 2 cars in 1970, is priceless in the humanity given to me.
So before it is too late, instead of seeing a collection that delights and defines someone in your family, as a pile of crap they wasted money on (their money by the way), and how you could profit from or fear at how to dispose of it all someday, stand back and see if you can figure out why. Then ask about it, or better yet, tell them what you see and already know. Time takes the value of everything, except people. A collection may be worth money at some point, but the real value is in person, the owner who loved it and you, if you are lucky and they are still alive, and they should be valued forever. The decision is up to you if they are “a keeper.”
To Melissa who used her love collecting, and true talent to bring joy to more people than some of us will ever know in a lifetime. Make-a-Wish and so many others will forever miss their beautiful fairy of light.
To Ben who had a crusty exterior, misunderstood and undervalued, but a heart as big the moon for those he loved. His ability to paint with thread, see beauty through the eyes of designers, and bring lasting joy to those who loved him back, we miss you.
To Linda who left us too soon, her ‘fancies” will forever bring smiles and admiration, to those who never knew her, laughed over one of her emails or saw the wisdom in her words.
There are so many others, and even more still living, who have shared with me over the miles and years, and become friends who changed my life forever.
Thank you, you wonderful dolls you!