I've always had an affinity for the geekier things. I remember the Mego Star Trek figures I had, the Mego Superhero figures, the brown paper grocery bags stuffed with Archie or Richie Rich comic books...but it wasn't until around May of 1977 that I transitioned from someone who enjoyed these things and into a full-fledged collector.
An obsessive collector.
When I was six and a half years old, the original Star Wars movie came out. My friends who had seen the film were hooked. It was all they could talk about at school. But it wasn't just the movie they loved; it was also the toys. The tie-in merchandise that was just beautiful eye candy for any kid. Action figures were smuggles into school and shared at the water fountain before they could be confiscated by the teachers. Trading cards were strategically placed inside our books. The comic book adaptation was read continually until it was literally falling off the staples.
One evening, my dad took me with him to a now-defunct drug store so he could pick up some supplies. While he was gathering - I don't know - bandages or something, I was wandering the store looking for something to entertain me.
And then I saw it. The display. A literal wall of action figures. Twelve figures in all, situated on pegs. Pristine blister cards, bubble shells intact...and multiples. Multiples of multiples. There had to have been at least 100 figures there.
And I had to have them. HAD to, you understand.
Even though I hadn't seen the movie yet.
As I stood there slack-jawed, gaping up at the mountain of figures before me, I started making up my own story about what this whole Star Wars thing was supposed to be about. Once my dad found me (who knew I was supposed to stand by him the whole time? Boring...) and I told him my complete fanfic version of the film...I'm not sure what I said to convince hum, but he bought me two figures: R2-D2 and C-3PO.
And thus my descent into madness began.
From 1977 to 1985, I purchased, was gifted, and even swapped for every Star Wars toy I could find. Sears or JCPenny exclusives? Got 'em (except for the Blue Snaggletooth, my personal white whale). Ships, playsets, die-cast, books, greeting cards, wallpaper...you name it. It was mine. The Gollum of Northeast Mississippi.
But it didn't stop there. Not with Star Wars exclusively.
Comic books by the thousands (yes, plural) were in my bedroom. Trading cards. Books. CDs. All "collectible," all desirable.
All taking up a lot of space.
When Ashley and I got engaged, I paid for her ring by selling off chunks of my comic collection. Full runs, signed editions, and the like. And to be honest, I've not missed them (...much...) because I have the memory of the stories. And I knew that what I was trading them in for was something much, much better, and of far greater value.
As the years have gone by, I've dabbled in trading some of my toys, comics, books and the like, but never out of a desire to purge or liquidate my collection.
Now...with the impending arrival of Thing Two in June, space in our house is a premium. And I have a lot of stuff taking up valuable real estate.
Now...I feel this kind of freedom and liberty to get rid of some things. In the past, I might have felt like I "had" to because grownups don't have touchstones to their past. That my enjoying these DVDs, books, or toys was a sign of immaturity. It's my choice, not a directive from Ashley, and it's an action I take out of love and not guilt.
Now...I understand the value of the important things in my life. Two of these things have curly hair, and the third may after he's born. Some of my stuff I will hold on to (I'm looking at you, Richie Rich and Captain Marvel), because they mean a lot to me. There's a far greater sentimentality attached to them than anything else.
Now...I can and will continue to look beyond myself. While I'd love for my boys to have the same passions I do, odds are they won't. And I have so many more amazing things to pass on and pass down to them that don't come from toy stores or comic shops. Intangible things that will have greater lasting value. Things that won't yellow or degrade with age, and have to be kept in climate controlled environments.
Now is the time I can and should let go of my past to make room for my future.
Just don't be too surprised if R2-D2 and C-3PO stay with me. We still have stories to tell and make up.
Are there things you still hold to that might need to be released to make room for what is in your life now?