Collecting, the Crone has learned, is a technique (over)used by the upset and unnerved who seek control over their surroundings and so squirrel and sort, categorize and accumulate in order to cope.
At its extreme it turns into hoarding but for most it’s harmless, like the list-maker in High Fidelity, or the Crone’s friend with her attic full of Beanie Babies, or the Crone herself with a hope chest full of remnants she will almost certainly never sew.
For the Crone, Saturday morning yard sales are the highlight of the week. Excitement begins to mount on the Friday night drive to Itchy Ankle when early signs are first spotted—black arrows crudely marked on torn cardboard backgrounds swaying tipsyily against supportive telegraph poles and sober lamp posts. Overnight, the Crone begins to plan her route, mentally mapping a circuit sure to yield unfathomable treasures: ‘must haves’ no home should be without. On summer Saturdays the witchy one is usually wide awake by 5am and so treats herself to a couple of early morning episodes of Cash In The Attic, preparatory to hitting the road. An iced skinny latte when the coffee shop opens, and the Crone is primed for action. Like her friend Andy, she can hardly wait (“I’m on their doorstep at 7:45” he used to say “I’ll help them unpack the F*ing boxes”) Careening from corner to culvert, she melds the acquisitiveness of a magpie with the thirst of a drunk–she simply can’t get enough. Forced to admit that she needs very little of what she buys, the Crone is now on the lookout for her sister (small shot and sherry glasses from the ’50s and ’60s and floral teacups she uses for serving dessert–or means to use for serving dessert); her friends Tom and Mike (Oyster Russell Wright, ebony candlesticks, black transfer ware, English silver, tabelcloths and napkins-nothing less than a set of twelve) and Gretel (junk jewelry, particularly bangles and earrings in bright colors, or black, and long, thick silver or gold colored chains). The particular thrill is finding these things one at a time, and paying only a couple of bucks for each (although admittedly she has yet to score the English silver at a yardsale). The Crone rarely shops online and wouldn’t dream of buying a job lot–the fun is in the uncovering, the one-off spotting, and the delicious thrill of a bargain.
As the Crone finds herself buying story books for grandchildren still unborn, and fabric and decorative plates for a house she imagines she will one day own, she is forced to ask if all this collecting is getting out of hand? She has seen where it leads. Last week, driving up a promising looking country lane she came across a yard sale spanning several acres: a field, two barns and a fair-sized shed filled with rotting and rusting farm equipment, the legacy of a man who kept everything and bought more because he believed that one day it would come in handy. The Crone looked at row upon row of hardware and heavy plant that the farm’s new owners couldn’t give away and understood that collecting can quickly turn from a comfort to a curse.