When I was a girl, we moved constantly, both in the US and overseas. In addition, my parents traveled a lot, separately and together. Wherever they went, they found me dolls in traditional dress: dolls from Morocco and Switzerland, Viet Nam and Germany, Scotland and Thailand. I didn't play with them, of course; they sat on a shelf and I rearranged them whenever I got new doll, based on some metric I can't recall. Alphabetical by county of origin, maybe?
Whether they can play with them or not, children LOVE collecting. My late father-in-law had an enormous stamp collection when he was young. My husband Ross collected W. Britain toy soldiers and used to stage massive battles between British Napoleonic regiments and Spartan phalanxes. In my teens and early twenties, I assembled an enviably large collection of tacky snow globes. Alas, when we moved into our current home, I realized tacky plastic snow globes weren't quite the decorating touch I was looking for in an 1820 farmhouse. They're all upstairs in the attic now. I told the Smithie she could have them when she moved into her first apartment, but she seemed strangely uninterested.
For the past fifteen years, my collecting obsession has been china and glassware. I have Spode that was Ross's grandmother's, Royal Doulton that was a wedding gift from my parents, a huge set of American ironstone that I got at auction and 19th century Canton Famille Rose that was given to me by a dear friend who had to seriously downsize. (Because she was moving to her house in Hawai'i. Not a bad trade!) Glassware I've picked up everywhere from Goodwill to estate sales to factory stores.
Reds, what did you collect when you were girls, and do you have any collections as adults?
RHYS BOWEN: I also have a big collection of dolls in national costumes from around the world. My father used to bring them back from business trips and my aunt was a great traveler who brought me a doll from every country she visited. I have a whole china cabinet full of them and pause to admire them sometimes.
As an adult I've had several collections: I collected elephants for many years until everyone gave me an elephant for every occasion and elephants threatened to take over my life. I've collected glass paperweights, but put them away one Christmas and have never brought them out again. I collect tiny boxes that live in a glass topped table. I still enjoy those. But when we bought a condo for the winter in Arizona I wanted it completely minimalist and simple, and actually I enjoy it that way so much that I've put away most of my ornaments from the house in California.
LUCY BURDETTE: I'm not an organized collector, unless you count--books! When I was deep into golf, I probably bought every golf novel and book on golf psychology that I could get my hands on. Now it's foodie books--I love foodie memoir and foodie novels. And of course I have all the books my friends have written--how can I purge those, especially if they are signed? I've been trying to cull out some of them, asking myself honestly, will you ever read this? Or will you ever read this again?? But it's very hard...
HALLIE EPHRON: I am so not a collector. Never was, even as a child. I remember one of my sisters collected dead bees. Back then she did things just to be annoying. The bad news is that I’m married to a man who collects. Stamps. Books. Postcards. The silver lining of this is that he keeps our photo albums up to date.
The one thing I have saved are all cartoon cards he’s drawn for me over the years for my birthday, Christmas, New Year, Valentines Day, and wedding Anniversary. This one’s from Valentine’s Day back when we lived in NYC with cats in about 1970.
JULIA: Hallie, that's a collection that's truly priceless!
DEBORAH CROMBIE: Julia, Rhys, I had a doll collection from everywhere my parents traveled, too! Japan, Hong Kong, South America, etc., etc. Like Julia, I must have had some system for arranging them, but have no idea now what it was. And I'm ashamed to say that I have no idea what happened to them. Culled in some move or other. But I can safely say that my daughter would NOT have wanted them--she's very minimalist in her taste.
As for something I actually enjoyed, I collected rocks. I had visions of being a gemologist, I suppose, or a geologist. I poured over guides to rocks and minerals and had special box for my rocks. Of course I liked the sparkly ones but that didn't translate into sparkly jewelry as an adult. A good thing, probably.
Nowadays the most organized thing I have is teapots. But I use the same one every day (Emma Bridgewater) and the other are mostly for decoration in my kitchen. I'm feeling a huge urge to declutter...
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I know you all think I collect black shoes, and black business suits, but that is all part of the job. So it doesn't count.
When I was a teenager, I collected Beatles stuff, but when I went away to college, my mother threw it away.
Thinking about this is so fascinating, because I don't really collect anything now. Unless you count glossy shopping bags, which I don't collect as much as accumulate. I do have a fabulous collection of name tags from various conferences and events, which I hang over the back of my chair in my writing office. It is quite amazing, and quite a work of art. It also changes the balance so much that it makes my chair follow over backwards.
JULIA: It seems like an essential component of everyone's decorating is that there has to be a bit of a challenge to it. Only gifts, or never buying full price, or only when traveling or at conferences. How about you, dear Readers? What did - or do - you collect?