Posted by: ktzefr | May 14, 2017

My Mom: the Collector

My mom was a collector.  Her house was full of “things” on tables and shelves and the living room mantel.  By the time she’d reached her 80s she was asking us not to buy “anything else to set around” for birthdays and Christmas.  But she liked her “whatnots” and had a story for each one.

Every place she went she looked for a rock to bring home.  Sometimes she’d find a pretty stone or a pebble with unusual markings, but often she just picked up a rock — any rock — as a memento of the trip.  And, if she spotted a sprout she didn’t recognize, she’d pull it out of the ground, wrap it in a wet paper towel, and put it in the suitcase to take home and plant.  She could make anything grow.

When I was growing up I shopped at the local Ten Cents Store for gifts at Christmas and I almost always bought a “whatnot” for Mom’s collection.  After she died, I brought several of these home.  Here are some favorites:

I was excited when I saw the purple cow on the Ten Cents Store shelf.  It carries salt and pepper shakers and jugs of vinegar and oil.

The skunks are well into their 50s and still smiling after migrating north.

I bought this little copper church for my mom in the airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  I had spotted it and rushed into the shop last minute and had to run to the plane.  It’s only about 3 inches tall, but the tiny bells tinkle.

Mom liked crosses as both jewelry and decoration.  My favorite is a wooden cross filled with silver milagros (miracles) that I bought in a shop in a small mountain town in central Mexico.  But I like this one, too.  Full of color and also from Latin America.

When my mom traveled she always bought a plate for her collection.  A shelf in the kitchen held plates from many different states and countries that she or a family member or friend had brought back home.  Some of the tiny plates in the photo below are ones I bought from street vendors in Rome and Paris, Copenhagen and Rothenberg, Germany.  She had decorative plates from Cumberland Falls and Niagara Falls, New York and DC, and many other states and places from Maine to Hawaii.

One of the prizes I discovered in her things was a plastic medicine bottle with a tiny something inside.  It looked like a seed; it felt like a pebble.  There was a note in the bottle in my mother’s handwriting. 

I don’t know if this is a pearl or a pebble or a seed.  My mom found it in an oyster shell that had washed up on the beach.  It doesn’t matter.  It’s a treasure.

I realized after adding this picture that my mom is holding something.  Probably a napkin.  She always took a napkin or paper towel or plastic bag along on our beach walks.  She would have been holding a hand full of seashells.

Collections are great.  I have a lot of “stuff” in my house, too.  But I’ve found over the years that the best things to collect are the ones you can’t buy.  They are not tangible.  Memories.  Those are the best.





  1. Thank you for such a wonderful tribute to our Mother. We are so lucky to have had her for so many years. I miss her so much.

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