D. and I were talking about this blog last week and something in our conversation reminded me of my grandfather. I’ve been trying to get at the root of this impulse to hoard, and I’ve only looked back to my father. When I mentioned my grandfather, however, I realized this may have been passed down the genealogy chart.
Family lore has it that my grandfather was a welder, trash collector, and jack of all trades. For example, he designed and built this groovy octagon shaped work shed and landscaped their terraced yard with little treasures all the way down to the lake. My memories of my grandfather are old and vague and really kind of magical, although no one ever told me he was much of an enchanting person.
On my desk in front of me as I type is a tiny cardboard square envelope that has been taped together. It makes me sad to look at it because it contains the tiniest penny I’ve ever seen, but it also used to contain my grandpa’s trick penny. That penny was given to me when he died, and I lost it sometime in college during a move. That absence tugs at my heart and makes me want to lose the cardboard that he fashioned as well.
Back to what I remember of my grandpa, though … he was a collector. From his years of trash collecting and using his metal detector, he had boxes of treasures. I don’t remember his house being particularly cluttered or untidy, but my grandmother is said to have been a very neat housekeeper. When she passed away, I believe things changed. I recall visiting his house after he had died to prepare for the auction. It was then that I got to choose what I wanted to keep, and along with the yellow towels and copper-bottom pots and pans that I would need for college, I took some of my grandma’s jewelry and photos of the couple when they were young. I do not know what happened to his elephant collection or his antique irons that used to sit by the fireplace … that is, if they existed and my memory is not inventing stuff.
My father has gone on to collect items he believes have value: hidden treasures in his house. He has a metal detector attaching him back to his father, and when I saw him in our yard with it two years ago, I could only think of him and my grandfather many years before going over our old yard (built on a former landfill), searching for treasure. Treasure in someone else’s garden. Treasure in my memory. But now empty trash here as I look at the only items remaining from Grandpa Herb.