Nick Nack, Paddy Whack

There are two kinds of people in the world. Nay, three. First are the collectors. They spend their lives searching for the perfect addition to their vast hoard. The missing piece. The finishing touch. Nick nacks reproduce in the dark of night, popping out baby nick nacks and expanding their territory so that every time you go to the bathroom, there is another vase sitting on the shelf that wasn’t there before.

This kind of multiplication seems to happen most with people in the second group. Those married to collectors. Just when you think you have a handle on things, up springs another piece of art, an elaborately carved mother and child, a bowl hewn from Amazonian wood. “A real collector’s item, honey. You don’t find those just anywhere. They don’t make them like that anymore.”

This may be true. But if so, then why does Value Village have an endless supply? They’re like black holes, pulling all kinds of things onto their shelves, ready for the next collector to come along. Which they always do. Those of us married to such enthusiasts spend a lot of time crying over, I mean, arranging things.

The third type have taken a vow of emptiness. No clutter violates their clean, barren spaces, the carefully arranged book shelves holding only books read the day before. Their bedrooms hold the basics, beautifully done in minimalist themes. Spare. Bare bones. No extras.

I am in the second camp. The lucky receiver of collected goods. The holder of many vases. Occasionally, the breaker of a few. There is a reason that people like me are married to collectors. It’s because we don’t have the courage for the bare space. We cannot contemplate a world without nicknacks, even though, deep down, we’d appreciate a few less. Not for us the empty shelves and barren dresser tops. The half empty linen cupboards (Judy, these quilts are antiques!)

On the other hand, if I were married to the third type of person, my sense of superiority would fly right out the window. I would be shamed daily by my inability to get rid of favorite items of clothing that no longer fit. The broken jewelry box I got in Italy. The Vase from Venice. The miniature chess set from India.

It’s better to be on team two. Smug in my sense of order, feeling mighty good about my ability to manage. Nick nack, paddy whack. Give this girl a bone. She’ll find a nice spot for it.

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