Wednesday, June 13, 2012


When i was younger, i used to collect collections.

I have been a huge nerd for my entire life, and when i was younger i used to think that if i had some cool "thing", i would become cool by default.

Having only a very tenuous grasp of the concept of "coolness" and of what things could be labeled cool, i decided that a really awesome collection of some kind would really seal the deal for me. The trouble is, i could never decide which collection was the coolest one. (That wasn't really the trouble. But it was the thing that precipitated this story.)

I tried collecting stamps, keys, coins, rocks, pieces of wood, stuffed animals, old books, beads, erasers, safety pins, buttons, shells, sea glass, and marbles. (This is not a complete list.) Please take note of the lack of coolness for basically every item on the list. And lest you be tempted to argue, thinking that some of these things sound like they might make really impressive collections, allow me to disenchant you. I was young, and had no money, and my town had extremely limited access to everything but soybean fields. So my collection of, for example, stamps, was not some colorful album full of rare, expensive pieces of miniature postage art. It was more an envelope full of regular stamps that we had recently received. Our exchange students did afford me access to some international stamps, but by and large my collection lacked value, interest, and diversity.

"I meant what I said,
And I said what I meant.
An elephant's faithful
One hundred percent!"
The weird thing about collecting is that you'll find something you like, pick up maybe half a dozen really awesome representations of that one thing, and then suddenly everyone you've ever met starts inundating you with more of that thing, because they want to help you with your collection. While this is really nice and helpful, i tended to be pretty fickle with my collections and too nice to tell people that, so when someone came up to me in the church parking lot with a handful of used stamps, i didn't know how to tell them that i wasn't really collecting stamps anymore. And i tend not to throw things away, especially when they were gifts, so my room is often cluttered with things i never wanted belonging to collections i am no longer interested in. Every year or so, i purge, but things still seem to pile up somehow.

This brings us to the elephants.

I really do like elephants. I think they look majestic and solemn and beautiful, and the little ones are insanely cute. They're generally considered faithful, responsible, patient, and lucky. Maybe that's why Dr. Seuss's Horton, who took care of someone else's egg through terrible winter storms and who almost died protecting people too small to be seen, was an elephant.

Anyway, i started collecting elephants some time in middle school, i think. And after a while, though i still liked them and would occasionally buy elephant things, i wasn't really interested in my collection.

And yet, it grows.

When my roommate went on a trip, the present she brought back to me was a hand-carved elephant (with a baby elephant inside! Insane!) I hadn't said anything about my elephant collection to her; she had just seen it in my room and decided to contribute. My mom bought me elephant earrings one year for Christmas. My sister gave me a whole family of bright orange elephant figurines.

But my brother has been the biggest supporter of my collection over the years. A few years ago, just as my collection fever was starting to wane, he gave me an elephant figurine the size of a cat. Then he went on a trip to Luray Caverns in Virginia and brought me an elephant carved of glossy gray stone. When he went to Italy, he brought me a glass elephant. When he went to a toy store, he brought me a plastic elephant.

This past weekend, at my sister's graduation party, Adam brought me a jade elephant. He walked up to the table where i was picking crabs, placed it in front of me without a word, and sat down.
"Oh, wow!" i said, trying to figure out if he was giving it to me or just showing it to me. "This is pretty sweet!"
"Some Asian lady was selling these in the hospital, and it was cheap, so I picked one up," he said nonchalantly, and then started eating crabs. (It was, in fact, a gift for me. Adam is thoughtful and sweet, but doesn't like to actually say out loud anything that might indicate that fact.)

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