CONFESSIONS OF AN ADDICT: REFLECTIONS ON COLLECTING
By: James F. O’Neil
“Hi! I’m Jim. I am a collecting addict.” “Hi, Jim.”
My memories of collecting “stuff” include digging through garbage in the neighborhood alleys of Chicago to find used razor blades. I had quite a collection of Gillette Blue Blades. Of course, I had to wash off dried shaving cream and dead whiskers, usually doing this in my bathroom sink. The hazards of washing used razor blades are obvious: cuts and blood. I stored the blades in metal Band-Aid containers. (My mother knew little of my secret stashes–though she later found out.)
I was 7 or 8 years old, as I recall now.
I collected used medicine bottles of all sizes, shapes, and colors. I had my own little pharmacy with my little brother, Tom. What a bottle collection we had! We played with pills, mixed colored water, and made prescriptions for hours and hours on end.
(I used my A. C. Gilbert chemistry set for more sophisticated medications–even buying test tubes from the real local pharmacist.)
I was 9 or 10 years old then.
Then I had some electric trains, made model airplanes–plastic and even a few balsawood.
During high school I added to my Army and Air Force sleeve insignia (SSI) collection. Earlier my grandfather had helped me with the original collection which I used for merit-badge-winning Boy Scout project.
In college, I collected textbooks…
When my sons were growing, one collected stamps (with me) and one collected coins (with me). Who was really collecting? Perhaps re-living my own childhood collecting days, still “addicted” after all those years? (Baseball cards one son collected; I helped feed his addiction at Christmas time.)
And now, after so many years? I am collecting again.
Collecting, to me, is healthy. I guarantee, it keeps me sane, makes me “whole.” One hour’s visit to a psychiatrist used to cost me $160. Now I have something physical to show for my “mental health” expenses.
So I am back at it, since 2004. Slowly I began to walk the path of addiction.
Down that road I went. What I have found is rewarding: reading and doing research while collecting WWII model airplanes.
I enjoy reading: about pilots, planes, places; stories, anecdotes, interviews, memories, recollections.
Thus, here is what I have learned: The more I learn about one little bit of this or that, the more I realize how impossible it is to really “know it all”–like trying to collect it all.
When it comes down to it, as all know, it’s “whatever turns your crank,” isn’t it? What I collect, how I collect, why I collect makes me, me. It is fun and enjoyable. That works for me–and guides me.
However, forget the old razor blades!
“Collecting is the sort of thing that creeps up on you.” –Paul Mellon
© James F. O’Neil 2013