I blame my parents. Sure,they thought raised me right,thought they tried to teach me the value of things,and thought they showed me wrong from right. But if your genes mean that you are predetermined to get high cholesterol or diabetes,then no matter what diet and exercise habits your parents raise you with,you will struggle with those diseases your entire life. So I look to my parents for the origins of my collecting habits. They did not push me down this path,but I see myself reflected in them. Or maybe I see them reflected in me.
My parents met and married in the small town of Painesville,OH,marrying right out of college and producing me shortly thereafter. My father studied economics and became a high school teacher. My mother studied literature and became a librarian. My father read and loved science fiction. My mother had the literature and poetry that she read for school as well as mysteries that she read for pleasure.
They raised me and my sister in post-Nixon America while struggling with a teachers salary and graduate school tuition. They did right by us,and for that I will always be thankful. I was never given everything I asked for,and I am very grateful for that. My habits of massive completeism and collectoritis were not their fault. What they did give me was a love of books and a mental image of a personal library.
One of my earliest book memories is of the amazing bookcase that was built into the wall above their bed in our first home. The wall was structured as if the bed was a Murphy Bed,though the bed itself didn’t fold up all the way into the wall. But framing the bed,built into the arc over mattress and depression in the wall,was these amazing bookshelves that went up one side then over the top and then down the other side. Their bed was literally framed by books. While I couldn’t read them I was fascinated by them,especially their spines.
When we moved into a larger home we got a bigger basement,and my father got his own little room,his dungeon,for his books. Two walls full of shelves where he was finally able to lay out his entire science fiction collection,arranged alphabetically by author. Having it all laid out like that let me fully understand the size and scope of this lovingly curated colection,especially useful when I reached an age where I could read them. Other walls in the basement were filled with my mothers books,as well as those portions of the collection that served both of them.
But they did not buy or gather beyond their means. Libraries were a constant presence in our lives,and my parents would almost always borrow rather than buy. And we’d hit the used bookstores as often as the full priced bookstores. They did not give me a picture of constant acquisition,of being rampant consumers. Just a picture of people who loved and appreciated things.
But there were also aspects of “collecting”that I was first introduced to through them. I remember my father had a checklist that was published in an issue of the magazine Fantasy &Science Fiction that was a complete bibliography of either Robert Silverberg or Roger Zelazny and setting out to fill in his collection. It was my first experience with a collector’s checklist. Seeing his entire library laid out let me see the collector that lurked inside and understand the thrill of filling in the gaps and finding the missing pieces.
I also remember my mother’s quests to find the strange volumes she needed while she was working on her doctorate. We would hit used bookstores in barns all over New England while she was researching Lydia Sigourney. I still have nightmares about the time we tried to squeeze a mini-van and a trailer camper up a muddy,rutted,dirt road on some mountain in upstate New York (or western Massachusetts),only to find the seller was out and we had to somehow three point turn this automotive monstrosity to get out of there. They did give me a love for the hunt.
They weren’t comic book people (but I still love them). They let me discover and build that particular illness one on my own. They did let me read Mad from a young age,took me to Star Wars when it was released,and bought me the first Howard the Duck &Godzilla &Star Wars &Spidey Super-Stories comics that laid the ground work for the later collecting habits. They also took me to the early science fiction conventions in Baltimore that introduced me to the lifestyle of a fan (but didn’t warn me off of it). for
As their life has gone on,and the economic constraints of my childhood have left them behind,their “collecting”habits as well as their libraries have continued to grow. My father buys books more often then birthdays and Christmas,and the internet has replaced the Saturday used bookstore tours and mail order catalogs of my youth. My mother has moved on to a massive fabric collection to feed her quilting habit (in addition to books). The graduate school literature is gone and many of the authors my father once collected have been sold.
So there is nothing to blame them for,really. But that is a great sentence to start a blog entry with,isn’t it. Now,I blame my new glasses and slight risk for heart problems on them,but that is another story.