An Archive of Growth?
America - land I love to mock

Had any collections as a kid?

I had several ‘collections’ as a kid, none of which were too serious. I collected anything that looked like a Volkswagen Beetle. I collected the little ceramic figures that came with the Red Rose tea my parents drank.

And then there were the beanie babies. I loved my first few passionately. I got two as birthday gifts from friends–Tobasco the bull and Magic the dragon. Many adventures were had, and I very much wanted to acquire the beanies that I wanted.

Unfortunately, that was me and a massive chunk of the child (and adult) population at the time. They were a national obsession.

Back when we lived in Kearny, our hallway neighbor was collector of–well, everything. Particularly unicorns. Her apartment was FULL of them. Talk about obsessive. We kept in touch with her after we moved and she moved and several moves later etc.

She asked me if I liked beanie babies. Did I want more? Why, yes, of course I did! I had no idea what that would end up meaning.

She collected them for me, and a bunch of her other nephews and nieces. When she found a new one, she would buy multiples and hang onto them for the next present occasion.

This delighted me at first, but it didn’t take long to become less enchanted. Like, did I really want the scorpion? Not really, no. And I had all the cats I was interested in, I didn’t need more. And the BEARS. I never liked the bears, and there were SO MANY. But they kept coming, in great piles. When Ty teamed up with McDonald’s she went to ever restaurant in her area over and over again to acquire the mini-beanies.

Far too quickly, I–and the nation–outgrew the fad.

What was she to do with all those beanie babies?

She kept going, of course. And when that finally ran its course she asked what else I was interested in. Did I like the Backstreet Boys? Nsync? (*dates self*) I was totally over the boy band thing, but she seemed stuck on it so I said I liked 98°. Cue an influx of random 98° merchandise that I wasn’t particularly interested in.

Funnily enough, she never tapped into things I really wanted, like anime or books. On the other hand, she could probably have out-stuffed me there, too.

She was obsessed with stuff, the acquisition, the gifting, and the search for it. Her new apartment was even more crammed with stuff than the previous one.

I know why this is. By this point in her life she had had multiple medical problems, including two bust knees that gave her a lot of pain. She was on disability (I think?) and unable to work as a teacher anymore, a career she had loved. All her energies needed to go somewhere, and she channeled them into ‘making kids happy’–giving us stuff.

We lost touch with her years ago. I know her health continued to decline. The long drive between us became unbearable for her, and she became ever-needier. We couldn’t be her surrogate family.

Photo: Gabo Halili

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