Stuff I Collect

When I was a kid, I collected rocks for some reason. When I was little, my family traveled by motor home to every state in the continental US. Wherever we went, I picked up a rock and put it in a shoebox. I had rocks from the desert, the ocean, the great plains, the far north, south and middle. The sides of the shoebox bowed out from the strain. By the end of our adventuring, I had two or three shoe boxes full of rocks.


I still have this habit of picking up rocks wherever I am. I usually put them back down again, but sometimes they make their way into my pockets, and eventually, onto a shelf in my room. The rocks I collect now have to be really unique or entirely evocative of a certain place or memory to make the journey home with me. I don’t have nearly as many as I used to.

Nowadays, I collect memories, not just rocks. Each thing in my collection of treasures takes me back to a certain time or place. When I lost the ability to make new memories for a while after being struck on the head, I developed a habit of keeping anything with a date and place on it, e.g. receipts, movie stubs, parking tickets – anything that would tell me where I was and maybe what I was doing there on a certain day. It helped me rebuild my memory and construct a time line since I was incapable of remembering on my own.

My brain has repaired itself to some extent from those early days of head wound. My brain has found workarounds so that I don’t need to keep every little receipt I happen to pick up, but I still keep them for a while anyway.

Every once in a while, when my wallet gets too fat to close, I’ll take out all the receipts and look at each one before I toss it. Some of them don’t get tossed, but go into a pile to be saved, sorted and eventually placed in a book in consecutive order. I have four of these books now. I suppose you could call them scrapbooks, but that’s not really what they are. Most people who make scrapbooks don’t put receipts in them. Most scrapbookers save important or emotional things, and while I have some traditional scrapbook items in there, my books are not traditional. My books are foundational. They provide proof that I was somewhere at a certain date and time. They trigger memories, hopefully. They help my poor addled thinker put things in order since, unless there is a significance to the date, I cannot sort my memories by year. While I have the ability to form new memories now, I can’t always remember where things happened, with whom, and most of all, when. When my brain was damaged, my personal time line disappeared. It has not come back.

While I still collect rocks, mostly I collect things to help me remember. I collect a paper trail of my life so that maybe ten years from now, when I look at a receipt, I can remember what I was doing there. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes, it’s as if I’m looking at someone else’s life. My memory is stored on paper, in books; it’s written across rocks and seashells. It’s in a little bottle of black sand on a shelf. It is a leaf from a tree. It is no longer inside of me.

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