I just read an interesting story about piece of history owned by a psychologist, Dr. Barry Lubetkin, who treats hoarders. From this New York Times article:
“A couple of weeks ago, Dr. Lubetkin was idly trawling the Internet for information on Homer and Langley Collyer, urban hoarders known in the 1930s and ’40s as the Hermits of Harlem.
Elderly scions of an upper-class Manhattan family, the brothers had barricaded themselves in a sanctuary of clutter at the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 128th Street.”
Turns out that Dr. Lubetkin owns the face of a clock that his father bought from the Collyers’ estate in 1947. (If you have not heard of the Collyers–and I had not until today–they were Homer and Langley Collyer, who, according to the oracle Wikipedia, “were eventually found dead in the Harlem brownstone where they had lived, surrounded by over 140 tons of collected items that they had amassed over several decades.”)
All this reminds me of a recurring dream. (There are two kinds of people in the world: people who recount their dreams to others, and people who cannot stand it when others recount dreams. If you are from the second category, please stop reading now.) My dream takes place in various settings, but the plot is always the same: I am looking around in a junk shop (or sometimes it’s an antique shop–there is a distinction, in life and in dream logic) and there, for sale, I see the Steiff and Schuco bears and various other toys (most often mohair stuffed animals) from my youth. I always have to buy them back, and it always seems strangely unfair. (And in a weird way, this recurring dream is one of the original germs that started me writing my novel, The Watery Girl.)
In real life, I still have those bears. I used to think I wanted to be buried with them. (I’m not kidding.) Interestingly (to me), lately I’ve been thinking about the difference between collector and hoarder. (There IS a difference, right?) For years now, my bears have been in boxes with the furniture and clothing I collected (and often made) for them when I was a child. Soon, I hope to realize the waking dream I have of setting up a dollhouse for them, so that I can look at them. So that they will haunt my waking as well as my sleep.
(And it’s not a coincidence that I write this post on the day that, at her request, I moved my six-year-old daughter’s dollhouse and all its contents from her room to the attic. She’s not ready to get rid of it yet, but she never plays with it, and wants more space in her room. There is something here. Something about generations, echoes, and ghosts…in finding this article about the clock face, and in my recurring dream plot, and in my writing this post today. Something that I need to mind.)