Collecting

 

Last month Timothy and I were perched at my embroidery booth at the Tampa Indie Flea. It’s a local art market that gathers once a month and on two occasions I’ve sold some hand embroidery there. Being an introverted vendor there is actually very exhausting because hundreds and hundreds of people come through and making small talk and answering the same questions (“how long did that take to make?”) over and over again is my literal nightmare. But many of those individuals are sweet and encouraging, so it’s worth the very real struggle.

One such shopper was a woman probably in her late 60’s. She walked up to us in bright colored sneakers and work out pants, a crochet vest with eclectic brooches pinned to it, big earrings and a big personality. She complimented my work and said “My husband and I are passed the point of collecting things now, so I can’t buy anything, as nice as they are. We spent 50 years gathering things and buying stuff we thought we absolutely needed and now we’re trying to get rid of it all! You both are young and probably knee deep in collecting still but boy does that change!”

Then she made a joke about how “snobby south Tampa richie rich’s” never stop collecting but that’s just one of their many problems. She was my spirit animal.

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Timothy and I were really struck with this idea. Seven months into marriage, we are DEFINITELY still collecting and building and piecing things together. Sometimes we’re collecting then returning and collecting something different (because those curtains were cool at first but we ‘collected’ a new rug and now they’ve gots to go). We’re searching yard sales and family closets and Home Goods (the homeland) and the Indie Flea trying to find the pieces that feel like home. Our apartment is about the size of a closet, but it feels no less loved than a mansion to us.

The quilt on our bed was made by my mom’s mom, who I never met. Her name was Charlotte and she loved the color purple, which is why purple stitches and fabric spill over the quilt. She died many years before I was born and certainly never knew of me, but I feel so connected to her when I pull up the quilt that she made with her sweet hands that might have looked kind of like mine.

On the bottom shelf of our living room bookcase is a soccer ball signed by Rod Stewart. Not exactly a piece I dreamed of having in my home one day, but a special souvenir of Timothy’s from when his step dad worked on Rod Stewarts tours. Few people know that Rod Stewart was a soccer player before becoming a singer (myself included before Timothy told me) and every time someone comes over and notices it they wonder out loud “… but why a soccer ball?”

For weeks we searched through craigslist looking for a couch that we could afford with our pittance of an income. One day a nice neutral couch in our budget popped up and we sprinted to go see it. On the way we set up signals to give to each other in case we didn’t like it. You know, in case the people seemed like the kind who definitely had sex on the couch (not sure how you can tell if someone is a do-it-on-the-couch kind of person) or something like that. We weren’t going to outright say no but instead settled on “we have other couches to go look at too so we’ll let you know.” Which was a lie. In the end the couple seemed very much like the kind who kept it in their bedroom (am I going too far?) and we bought the couch. Getting our new-to-us couch up the stairs to our apartment was the hardest thing we have ever done. Timothy yelled, I cussed. We scratched the legs and tour the back a little bit making it look infinitely less nice than when we bought it, but it was ours. It was the first big thing we bought together and remembering the insanity of bringing it up the stairs always makes me smile.

Two favorite items in our collection are custom portraits from two artists I love. The first portrait was one I ordered a month and a half early for Timothy’s birthday. The artist (Lauren Noel) only takes custom portrait orders a few times a year, and they always sell out fast (REAL fast, like I had so set a reminder on my phone and have her website up & ready to purchase). Coincidentally, it arrived on our wedding day. Our wedding was in the afternoon and when we arrived home – to officially our home for the first time – it was waiting at the door. In my excitement I made Tim open it that minute.

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My husband and I, in front of the Memphis bridge, painted by LadyNoelDesigns (LadyNoelDesigns.bigcartel.com)

For my birthday (which hey, is today) Timothy got me the second portrait in our collection. Extra special, this one was made by a personal friend I happen to adore for a thousand reasons. Though we’re the subject in both, they’re as different as the women who made them and each so special. Often I catch myself feeling all warm and fuzzy over the thought of our future kids (our maybe future kids) looking at them and remarking “I can’t believe how young you look!”

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My husband and I with all our favorite things painted by Kelly Hewitt (melodiousmonster.com)

To be sure, the best parts of our collections are the memories that we’re making as we learn how to be husband and wife. Dancing in our living room, taking walks in the first neighborhood (of most likely many) that we’re taking up space in together, getting in arguments that end in laughter.

Over the years we will add many things to our collections, maybe even people. And that sweet spirit at the indie flea may be right about one day wanting to cut our collection down, but for right now I’m loving the collecting.

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