Collecting New Associations

I’ve always liked to collect. My middle son shares this trait. Some things he is currently collecting, or has collected:  pepper shakers (not salt), traffic cones, ID/name tags, dice… I’ve collected or are currently collecting: wooden sailors, cat figurines, Buddhas, rocks, salt and pepper shakers, pens, cacti, African American figurines, crane/claw game prizes…

I love swatches. I used to send away for any free swatches I could find on offer for free. Sometimes it’s hard for me to walk by the paint section in a department store and not impulsively grab color samples… As a matter of fact, upon cleaning out my pocketbook (I just don’t call it a purse) recently I came across a few color cards in shades of purples and of greens.

paintswatches

I have a wallpaper sample booklet (somewhere in a box in my cellar) with each page being an actual swatch of wallpaper. Wallpaper comes in many textures and patterns; here are but a few examples I found online:

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Simple things delight me.

Since my late husband was a roofer, he had a briefcase which contained shingle samples. They looked something like this:

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How taken I was with them!

I mentioned above that once upon a time I collected cacti. When I still lived at home with my parents in the late 70s, I had about a dozen cacti displayed on my bureau top. It was the type of bureau with a mirror attached that comes in a set; with a matching tall dresser and a four-post canopy bed; all in white; accented with pink tea roses. Of course, I’d painted each of the drawer fronts yellow because that’s my way. Among the cacti on the bureau top, I kept an old hollowed out wooden speaker. It looked just like these including having a hole, but with the wires gutted out.

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My hamster Chip

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was very friendly. He liked to curl up into the curly fur of my silver gray poodle, Suzette. Suzy would lick Chip as if she were grooming a puppy; until Chip fell asleep, belly-up; nestled snugly against her body, on the yellow comforter of my bed. Chip was the kind of hamster I could “let go” as long as I shut my bedroom door and kept an eye on him of course. I’d often let him explore my bureau top for hours as I read a book, watched reruns on my little black and white TV, drew pictures or played Solitaire. He seemed to enjoy walking among my cactus plants and he especially enjoyed hanging out in the old speaker. He’d sit inside the wooden box grooming himself, peeking out at me through the hole with puffy cheeks full of the seeds I’d sprinkle around, and he usually fell asleep inside that speaker box.

I kept Chip in a spacious two floor “apartment” on my tall bureau. The lower ‘floor’ of his flat was a glass fish tank filled with a few inches of cedar chips with tissues (which he’d shredded and made into a bed) in one corner. In another corner was his kitchen. He always emptied his pouches of kernels, seeds and goodies into that one spot. Another corner was his bathroom. After I would clean his tank, he would choose the same exact corners for his bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen, even when I tried to trick him and turned the tank around… Sitting atop the tank was a plastic Habitrail with a tube that led into the lower floor, an exercise wheel, a water bottle and wood sticks to chew. There was even a long yellow plastic tube which went up, up about two feet into the air like a tower and led to a little box, for his own ‘penthouse’ view of my room. Usually I put a toilet paper tube in there for him to find and chew and crawl through, or a special treat of some kind.

One day I noticed that Chip’s Habitrail cage looked wrong. The cover was askew. My heart sank. Had I left unlatched the yellow clasps which held down the metal cover?

We had dangers in the home: cats. And boxes of poison that

my father placed under the kitchen sink for the rats and field mice that came into the house via holes by the pipes under the old deep sink… Have you seen the boxes of poison which look like little white flakes similar to mashed potato flakes? That’s what we had then.

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 I went to the kitchen immediately fearing the worst.

I knelt down on the linoleum and slowly opened the white aluminum doors under the kitchen sink… Sure enough Chip was there standing next to a pipe my father had wrapped with chicken wire in an attempt to close up the place where the outside rodents were getting in. My heart flipped again. He was standing beside the rat poison box and calmly looking right at me with his round black eyes. He strolled right into my open hand as soon as I held it out for him.

teddy-bear-hamster-0051His pouches were filled to bursting!

I alerted my father at once. I remember him seeming very concerned, uncharacteristically quiet, biting his lower lip (he would switch to different traps after this incident. We would catch live rodents and release them into the cornfield.) As we studied Chip, standing in the palm of my hand, pouches thick and round with poison, licking his little fingers, my father tried to sound reassuring but I could see he was worried too. He liked Chip. He never failed to chuckle upon seeing Chip sleeping… nestled in Suzette the poodle’s fur.

“Maybe he didn’t get a chance to eat any,” my father said. “We can only wait and see.”

I released Chip into the tank and together my father and I watched as my hamster hurried to his kitchen corner and with his little front feet, pushed the horrid white flakes out of his pouches. I gasped at the quantity; the piles of white flakes that had fit in his stretchy little cheeks! When it seemed the pouches were completely flat and thus empty, I let Chip loose on my bureau top.

“Clean it out good. Time will tell,” said my father and he left me to my task…

I watched Chip a bit, as he leisurely made the rounds to each of my cactus plants, sniffing, lifting himself up partway onto each terracotta pot and down again. Predictably, he ended up in his favorite hidey-hole; the speaker. I threw out all the contents of his tank and thoroughly cleansed it.

Twice.

To be sure.

Then I added fresh wood chips, a new pile of seeds, and a couple of soft clean tissues from a Kleenex box. I lay on my bed watching him that night; as he set up his tank to his liking. The seeds had to be just so; buried in the kitchen corner. The tissues were shredded purposefully and at last he curled up on the concave bed he’d worked so hard to fashion. He yawned mightily and closed his eyes.

In the morning when I woke, I saw my father standing in my room and soundlessly staring into the tank. I sat up quickly. Chip wasn’t moving; so far as I could see. He was exactly where I’d seen him fall asleep the night before. Wordlessly, I removed the Habitrail from the top so I could reach into the tank. My father was biting his lip again. Chip was still not moving. Gingerly, I put an index finger on his little white belly. He always slept belly up…

He stretched his four feet out straight and with half opened eyes he yawned widely, leisurely– and nestled himself more comfortably into his soft bedding! I exhaled.

“Hey!” said my father, absolutely beaming with relief, “I guess he was so well fed he never even tasted the poison! He’s gonna’ be just fine!”

He was. Chip lived another year at least. He lived as long as a hamster can live, and then some.

Recently, my father and I were discussing my late mother’s vast collection of stuffed animals and what we were going to do with them. Mind you, my father recently ‘lost’ a niece my age and two of his brothers. They all passed within weeks of each other. As we discussed the stuffed animal collection, I saw him biting his lip. My mind flooded at the the sight of this. Long after he left for his home in Vermont, I was thinking of collections, and thinking of that day in 1979 when he also bit his lip, and thinking of Chip and his close call.

Because my brain is like that. It makes these associations…

I got an e-mail, ‘out of the blue’ as they say from someone who’d like to put one of my paintings on clothing and other things. The proceeds will benefit them, myself, and also an autism charity. I’ll post info when all that has come to fruition. Currently I’m collecting old CDs and puzzle pieces for an art project I’m very excited about; inspired by the art piece I posted in my last blog. I’m hoping to find old colorful puzzles in places like Savers, Goodwill, and the Dollar Store.

I tell my grandson stories like the one about Chip’s close call. And the one about my black cat who wrestled a snake and won. I tell him about people who’ve passed so he’ll have a sense of them. My grandson, who is 8 now; he collects things too.

hamster photo with full pouches similar to my Chip found here: http://gledwood2.blogspot.com/2011/04/tubby-entertainers.html

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