It will not surprise anyone to learn that I am fascinated by collections. It comes naturally to me, I suppose–my grandfather has a collection of brass bells that fills the walls in both of his houses. My grandparents tried to count them once and lost track somewhere in the range of several hundred. It’s not uncommon, at estate sales or smaller, more organized thrift stores, to come across entire collections of things. I’ve seen many collections of thimbles and spoons, playing cards and decorative plates, dolls and bears. Yesterday, whilst avoiding the reading for my minor course–which this week is on souvenirs and collections–I stumbled upon a collection of shoes at a thrift store. Not shoes meant for human feet or even, for the most part, sold in pairs, but tiny ceramic and glass shoes. There were perhaps fifty of them all together, baby booties, cowboy boots, slippers, vaguely Victorian boots, French-looking heels with buckles, and a single pair of moccasins. I wondered how the prices for these shoes had been settled upon–did the oppressive quantity of them lower the value down to 49 cents, or was it a question of demand–who would want one ceramic shoe, let alone 50?
Me, of course. I bought 13 of them–all of the clogs that weren’t chipped and a couple of boots that I intend to use as vases. I had a white pottery clog a few years ago and gave it away in a flurry of house cleaning. I’ve missed it since then. Now I have two. One of the shoes is an Avon bottle, which is why I noticed them in the first place. A number of the shoes have notes scrawled on the bottom in pencil–“On the way up north, 1981.” The when and where of these aquisitions seems to have been as important to the collector as the objects themselves.
The thing about my thrift store trawling is that it always gets me thinking about my work. It makes me want to write–to write personal things, like this blog, and to write (or at least think about writing) scholarly things, like the paper on Aurora Leigh and needlework that I’m revising. I didn’t get home in time last night to photograph these shoes before all the light was gone, and I thought about them all night. They’ve been lingering at the edges of my consciousness as I read Sherman Alexie. These things–and I don’t mean these shoes, but rather these kinds of things–are what I care about. It doesn’t make sense to a lot of people, but I’m hoping that it’s starting to make sense to some through the work that I’m doing. I also try to make sense of it through these bloggings and musings, which have taken the place of the many journals that I’ve failed to keep. So instead of doing my reading about collections, I’m staring at a lineup of ceramic clogs. Weird little things that they are, they seem to have a lot to say. Rather than scrawling a note in pencil about the finding of these findings, I’m writing this post.