• Carmen Marie Fabio

Making a list...


“If it doesn't eat, keep it,” was my odd grandfather's mantra so I guess genetics are to thank (or to blame) for some of the collections I, and my family, have amassed over the years and while a few – like my frog collection – are relatively benign, others are admittedly on the strange side.

I've inherited an assemblage of different coloured antique glass telephone wire insulators that serve absolutely no purpose but look nice in the afternoon sunlight. Our collection of assorted bones and antlers quickly gets blamed on the kids if anyone asks, along with myriad assortments of seashells and rocks. Lots of rocks.

I have an impressive selection of stickers gleaned from assorted fruits and vegetables that I amassed and painstakingly catalogued beginning in my early 20s, only stopping when my first son was born. And though the tooth fairy has duly paid out all she was contractually obliged to pay for in lost teeth, the collection of molars, bicuspids, and incisors remains hidden away in a secret compartment of a cabinet next to the cull of odd socks from the dryer.

The contagion seems selective in that it’s only affected two of my kids in varying degrees. While my youngest has a litany of small bottles on one shelf and all kinds of cacti in what we call “The Magic Window” for its healing properties for ailing plants, another – from a young age – surprised me with his wont for collecting Buddha statues. We still have them all, from thumbnails sized to an almost foot-tall replica. I drew the line at buying the life-sized one.

I have a collection of dog tags beginning from 1916 up to 1980, found in a box of discarded items from an old renovation site. The tags cover the life span of three dogs; the earlier ones made of brass before the town began using aluminum, all carefully stamped ‘Westmount Dog’ along with the accompanying year. It’s evident that after each dog’s passing, the owner waited for years, in one case two decades, before deciding to get another dog, then dutifully got him (or her) licensed each year. And while I know nothing about the owner, I’ve deduced they were good people, holding their dogs in the highest regard, based on the years they held onto their respective memories.

My eldest, having taken a year off between high school and Cegep, is working as a commis aux fruits et légumes at a local grocery store and though the intellectual stimulation of the job is middling, he finds ways to make the work interesting, not the least of which is his collection of discarded grocery lists gleaned from empty shopping carts, and even the floor, at the end of his shift.

While mostly mundane and pedestrian, they can contain unexpected humour, offering candid glimpses into the lives of whoever wrote them. I don’t know who wrote - along with avocadoes, and asparagus - to buy, “All of the live lobsters and several dozen small swords” but I take heart in the quirkiness of it.

I hope they also collect bones, teeth, and rocks.

Lots of rocks.

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