The Things We Carry With Us

by Shel Silverstein

Hector the Collector
Collected bits of string,
Collected dolls with broken heads
And rusty bells that would not ring.
Pieces out of picture puzzles,
Bent-up nails and ice-cream sticks,
Twists of wires, worn-out tires,
Paper bags and broken bricks.
Old chipped vases, half shoelaces,
Gatlin’ guns that wouldn’t shoot,
Leaky boats that wouldn’t float
And stopped-up horns that wouldn’t toot.
Butter knives that had no handles,
Copper keys that fit no locks,
Rings that were too small for fingers,
Dried-up leaves and patched-up socks.
Worn-out belts that had no buckles,
‘Lectric trains that had no tracks,
Airplane models, broken bottles,
Three-legged chairs and cups with cracks.
Hector the Collector
Loved these things with all his soul‹
Loved them more than shining diamonds,
Loved them more than glistenin’ gold.
Hector called to all the people,
“Come and share my treasure trunk!”
And all the silly sightless people
Came and looked…and called it junk.

I hate when things I’ve said come back to bite me. My mother was very much a Hector. She had so many “treasures” including buttons, empty jars, pieces of tinfoil, magazines and newspapers from every year she’d been alive and before she was born. Maybe it was a mentality that formed in her youth during the great depression (I was adopted by my maternal grandparents). She would always argue that you never know when you might need something and several times this odd squirrely behavior proved to be quite helpful. Most of the time however I hated the clutter. Sometimes I feared that I might find myself in the middle of the night being smothered by nicknacks, old containers and papers that had multiplied in the darkness and grown big enough to become a monstrous junk mass consuming everything in it’s path. I wanted to be empathic and to really understand this need for things and the love of them but in the end I chalked it up to that’s her and I’m different. When my mother passed several years after dad, I became the proud inheritor of the majority of their things. Slowly as we had to sort things when selling the house a true understanding began to grow. I knew in my heart I didn’t really need a Life magazine from 1938, turquoise binoculars from 1950 something or a ziplock bag full of spools of thread but they were so hard to let go. Over time I managed to unclench my fists from some of the “treasures”. We made several Salvation Army trips, had a stand at the flea market, went door to door at antique shops and gave away numerous items. In the end, I still had so much I just couldn’t bare to be without. There continues to be a gradual whittling down of “the collection”. It’s still hard. I hear my words echoing in my mind when mom and I would argue about throwing things away, “It’s just stuff Mom. Just things” That might still be true but now to me they hold more meaning than their cotton, wood, metal or plastic coverings can convey. I have things from my great great great grandfather, marriage certificates, an old scarf I remember her wearing so much and a shirt dad wore on the weekends that still smells a little like him. It’s more than stuff… it’s little pieces of everything I grew from. So, saying this it’s becoming very hard to pack. I watch the containers filling and becoming heavier and heavier and I feel a little weighed down by the thought of it. I realize that I am now in fact “the collector”.


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