Tribute To A Junque Collector

Junk or treasure?


The Sweet Stuff Of Life


I admit it, I’m a collector.  Wherever I find cool stuff, my first inclination is to keep it. I’m attracted to “Objects de Junque”.  My husband seems to be the opposite (with one glaring exception in the tool department).  I’m not sure why, but sometimes he seems entirely too happy to point out my idiosyncrasies around collecting.  “Hey, it’s just stuff, sweetie.  Lighten up, would ya?”


I know when it’s serious, though, for he’ll tack on his dreaded eye roll.   That’s when I know I’m crossing into dangerous territory and need to make a hasty retreat. “You’re right, dear,” I’ll say. “I guess we we can live without it, but can’t you just picture it in the bath?”


I’ve thought about it, and I’m pretty sure this inclination I have to collect comes genetically. At least, I’m hoping it does, because then I can’t be blamed!


From A Long Line


How can I give this up?

We traded everything from dishes to knick-knacks to plain old junk.

Both my grandmother and mom were great collectors of “Junque” as well—each a master of the art in their own right. In fact, there was an unspoken rule in the family that whenever someone was ready to get rid of something, then the rest of the family had first dibs on it. We added an addendum to the rule somewhere down the line:  Not only did we have dibs, but at least one member of the family was expected to snatch it up and take it home, or they weren’t living up to their family responsibilities and we might just have to disown them.  Thus, it was not at all unusual for an object to travel back and forth among the various households.


Wanna Trade?


A pig with a purpose.

This little piggy has served a long and happy life.

It was always fun to attend the family swap meets, which often occurred spontaneously as a visiting member of the tribe would open the trunk of their car. As the contents started spilling out, there was always lots of storytelling about who got the item originally, how great it looked in so-and-so’s house, how it still had lots of life left in it, and how it would be perfect in my place now. When my daughter got old enough she made a fourth generation for keeping the “circle of life” going for all our treasures. In those rare cases when we actually decided to have a garage sale and invite others in, we would always have less to sell than we originally intended due to the fast and furious trading frenzy that would ensue before, during and after the sale.



Tradition In Peril


There's never enough bird junque.

Mom collected lots of “bird” things like this little vase.

Alas, the recycling of precious treasures finally began to slow down a couple of years ago due to my grandmother’s passing and the fact my daughter starting to set limits and boundaries. I think she said something to the effect, “I don’t want any more of your crap, mom.  I’ve got enough of my own already.”  Ah, yes, don’t we all.  With the participants now down to just two (my mom and I) it was harder to get excited about seeing an old item since it was probably something we swapped the last time around. Still, we kept our game faces on, and did our best to keep the circle going.


Fading Memories


Candlesticks come in all shapes and sizes.

Mom loved collecting all sorts of glassware.

Then my mom took ill. She started a rapid decline with memory loss and began suffering from various physical ailments.  In the span of year it was down to me and my daughter, but only when I begged her long enough and she would break down and take pity on me. Unfortunately, there were no more swap meets like the old days or family gab sessions on the intrinsic values of our stuff.


The Magic Touch


My mom’s home is still full of treasures, but with her illness she doesn’t remember them. When I look at many of her items now, I can often remember when she first got them, and how proud she was to show them off to me. I remember the fun she had when she felt she had really scored.  In truth, I was envious of her ability to use so many of the things to make her house feel homey.  She had a way with Junque that was very creative.  Hers was a magic touch. Now, I am often tempted to take some of those items home in order to recapture the joy of life she expressed when she was still in the game.


It’s Not The Same


Stuffed lambs are so cute like this cute little critter.

Mom’s still got so many stuffed animals.

But it doesn’t work that way, does it? All these things were her treasures, and now they only bring a sad longing for the memories we once shared.  As painful as it is to accept, all these physical things can’t bring back my mom of old.  Yet as they start to stack up and clutter up my house, I know I should begin to sort through and unload them.  I find that hard to do.  Giving them up still feels like a betrayal in a sense, like I’m giving up on Mom and not just the things we shared.


Moving On


When I look around and see all the things I’ve collected I ask myself whether I love them.  Do I really need to hang on to them? Do they make me happy?  If I’m honest with myself, I would have to admit the answer is, “No, not really.  Not so much, anymore.”  So why do I hold on and let all this stuff control so much of my life?  I suspect the answer lies in the twin beasts of fear and scarcity—fear I am losing tradition and forgetting my family, and scarcity that I will never find things this cool again.


In And Out


Everyone wanted this set.

My mom always like this set.

I keep trying to move away from my habit to collect.  I need to clear out the old and make more room for me, not for more things that come with so many strings attached. I’ve heard that a good rule to follow is if you bring in one new thing, then send two out (and not to a relative’s house either).


Got To Try Something


This is something I’m going to try for a period of time. The idea of saying I will do this for the rest of my life seems like it will simply set me up for failure. Yet I do think I can commit to this for a month in order to see how it works and feels.  Lucky for me, it’s almost February—the shortest month of the year!


Yes, for this next month, I’m going to commit to de-cluttter and keep a watchful eye to ensure there’s less incoming than outgoing junque. I suspect my mom would be secretly pleased if she were still able to understand my need to move on.


A Win Is A Win


Oddly, I did find several books on controlling clutter in mom’s overfilled bookcases.  I looked at them for a little while, smiled as I remembered how she would get into a super clean mode, and then say it was time to unload stuff. This time, instead of taking them home, I put them in the book recycle box at the grocery store and sent them on their way.  I think we’re off to a good start here.  Score one for both me and mom.


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