Lunching with a friend the other day, we realized both of us collect tiny boxes. Our affinity for limoge boxes and the like, is one also shared by both of our mothers. Hence, the beginnings of each of our collections. It came up, as my friend was opening a little happy from me-none other than a tiny enameled box! Coincidentally poetic, because as she recounted, one of her favorites had recently met a doomed fate, in the hands of her toddler. I could identify, as I had a similar story from a few years ago. That was the point at which I moved all of my tiny boxes into high up, hard to reach places, to keep them safe from the little ones. Many of mine have been received as gifts from my mother, marking birthdays, celebrating benchmark accomplishments, or representing special occasions. Both my friend and I hope to one day pass our collections on to our children and theirs. But this got me thinking, why do we start collections? And why do we keep them going? In thinking through my own collections, the reason is most often sentiment. A personal connection to another generation-to the people we love. Connection to a place or region. Connection to meaning.
A recent conversation between two designers brought me fresh eyes on the subject. Our friend Nicolette Mayer and designer Cindy Rinfret, were saying goodbye on the last day of the Kip’s Bay Show House, which we were visiting with Nicolette. As Cindy was leaving a note in one of her new books for her friend, she sealed it with a kiss. Cindy quipped, “Now you have my DNA!” To that, Nicolette added a personal antecdote, which I found interesting, coming from such an accomplished designer. She remarked that of all the beautiful things she owned, a handkerchief once belonging to her grandmother was her most precious possession-because of the lipstick kiss still on the linen.
The perfect answer to my thought. This was her golden thread. A kept item connecting her to her grandmother’s kiss, taking her back to that feeling of being loved by her. Teeny tiny boxes from a teeny tiny region in France alone are beautiful to look at, but we keep them because they connect us to our mothers, to our heritage. And when they are gone, hopefully we will be able to feel the kiss~
PS I have written before about my collection of post-war era milk glass. It came to me from both sets of grandmothers. I love to incorporate it into place settings, especially for family gatherings, where it means something special to those seated around the table.
Same with my McCarty pottery, made from the clay earth of Mississippi, the state in which my mother, grandmother, and great grandmother were born.
And the running joke on blue and white Spode in our family, is that we could host a seated dinner for 200 if our collections converged, which they probably never will. But there’s a sense of connection between aunts, nieces, cousins, mothers, daughters, and granddaughters in our family, knowing we share the love of the blue and white:)