Back in 1988, when I was 10 years old, I had a pocketful of allowance money when I walked into the local pharmacy looking for a way to spend it. My go-to item was always the stuffed animals or their somewhat miserable supply of Barbies, but I hadn't saved up and therefore had to hunt for something a little closer to the $5 bill clutched in my fist. So I headed to the books and periodicals section. I was an avid reader, maybe they had a Baby-sitters Club book I didn't have? As I was looking around something colorful caught my attention. A small book the size of a paperback but shaped a little fatter, a little shorter. On the cover was a cartoon of a father and son having a discussion about homework. The father says, "Archie, how do you explain this low math grade?" and the son replies, "Well, dad! How about the batteries in my calculator went dead!" HA! I use a calculator too! I started to flip through the pages and was captivated by charm of the 1950's style of fashion. And the characters in the stories were all teenagers! They went on dates and drove cars and threw parties! The advertising throughout the book also appealed to me. Ads for Fruity Pebbles, M&M's, and Chips Ahoy. I like those things! I like all of those things! The price on the cover was only $2.25. I would still have money left to buy candy. SOLD.
Thus began my collection of Archie Digest Magazines. I would stay up past my bedtime reading by the illumination of a flashlight. But there was no fooling mom, she would walk past by bedroom and as I quickly tucked the light under the covers she would say, "Heather Marie! Lights out." Pretty soon I had a tall stack of Archie comics on the floor next to my bed. I would read them over and over again. Knowing each one cover to cover. I loved visiting Riverdale. It was a small, safe town that was always idyllic. The gang would get into zany mischief at Riverdale High and then go hang out after school at Pop's Soda Shop. Betty and Veronica always fought over Archie and Archie loved them both, in different ways, and could never make up his mind. Reggie loved Veronica and would always concoct villainous plans to steal her from Archie. And sometimes they worked. Moose, the big dumb lug, loved Midge. And Midge, despite his jealousy, loved Moose. Jughead loved food. A lot. And Ethel loved Jughead. A lot. But through the thick and thin of it, all of them were the best of friends. No matter what.
There are two types of people in this world: the collector and the non-collector.
Being a collector doesn't just mean that you buy a lot of one thing. Having a lot of books doesn't mean that you collect books. Just like having a lot of shoes doesn't mean that you collect shoes. Being a collector is a characteristic of ones very nature. It informs who we are on a basic level, humming below the surface of our skin, quietly ticking in our brains, urging us, driving us, causing us to crave. Collectors make lists of what they have and what they need. They know the minutia of the items they collect, whether it be the difference between a mastered and an unmastered version of an album, a rereleased version of a toy, a second printing of a comic book, a director's cut of a movie, or the year and season of their designer shoes. A collector is informed. And a good collector is organized.
I had a pretty magical childhood. I grew up going camping, swimming in lakes, playing with my Barbies in the woods, reading mystery novels, watching scary movies, playing hide and seek with my cousins, catching fireflies, taking bike rides, dance classes, shooting guns and learning archery and throwing tomahawks, helping my parents cook, playing with our dogs and cats and rabbits, playing with my sister, exploring our attic full of antiques and toys, building forts, catching frogs and fish, and going on countless adventures that only children can truly appreciate. I am reminded of my childhood daily and I am always grateful for it. But none of it would have been possible without my parents. My amazingly cool parents who opened the world to their children and ushered us bravely through it.
So when I think of my innate desire to remain childless a part of me is sad and disappointed. I have so much to offer a child. Qualities that my parents passed down through example - imagination, creativity, carefree spirit, a desire for fun and adventure, bravery, an open mind, acceptance. Along with my exceptionally intelligent and logical and hilarious husband, we would make some pretty remarkable parents. But here we are, in our mid-thirties, and there isn't an ounce of longing in either of us. So instead we socialize and drink and stay up late. We collect toys and cats and play in bands and write novels. It's a good life. A great life. And I wouldn't trade it. But sometimes I'm reminded of the family life that I grew up having and I sigh and say, Yep, I'm missing that gene.
I don't think of you often. My life is full and busy and good. I am happy. Different. Changed. The same. I don't think of you often...
But when I do, it's like going blind. My hands grope along the wall and through empty space, trying to find familiarity, searching for something to hold onto, something to embrace. But it's an empty room. It's cold and smooth and devoid of personality. I remember that it once had light, had warmth, had love. But it's like knowing there's a universe of planets spinning all around us. You take on faith what you cannot see.
My favorite Portland event of the year came and went all too fast. One minute I was at the ATM stuffing my pocket full of $20s and collecting my ticket and program to this year's Stumptown Comics Fest. And the next minute I was practically throwing my money at artists and leaving with an empty wallet and a bag full of treasures.
I had a little bit of post-stumptown depression as I was leaving the convention center. It was, after all, still in full swing and here I was leaving in the middle of the hustle and the bustle that was the fest. But I had done half a dozen laps around the room already, I had a measly $4 left in my wallet and I was moments away from plopping down next to a favorite artist or two just to hang out and soak up the atmosphere, becoming that girl. So yeah, it was time to go.