In the years after my father passed away, I helped my mom begin to go through his office. This was no small task. My dad, since his retirement, had turned into quite a collector. As we began to excavate his cupboards and closets, we had to laugh. It wasn’t enough to have one ball of string; he had three. If one pack of new pens was good, four were better. Surely a well-stocked stationary closet should include three or four reams of notebook paper, computer paper saved from an old out-of-date printer, cartridges of ink from said out-of-date printer, and more than enough pencils in case every Eckerd Drug Store and Walgreens closed forever.
Here’s the thing with my dad: it’s not that he had a high need to own a lot of stuff; he really wasn’t inclined that way. The problem was, he couldn’t resist a bargain. If aspirin was five for $4.97, he would buy ten. If those packages of awful tasting cardboard sandwich cookies were two for $2.00, he would buy four. Imagine his delight at the annual back-to-school sales. He couldn’t resist. Reams of notebook paper for a quarter? Buy eight! Packs of pens a buck a piece? Buy six! He would often come back from his outings, laden with bags, admitting he couldn’t help himself; the items had just been too cheap not to buy.
As much as I’d like to shake my head at his silly propensity for bargains, I have to first take a look at my own habits. I admit, I’m an apple that has not fallen far from the tree. I love back-to-school sales. My writer’s heart (at least that’s what I’m claiming) can’t resist all the composition books for .50 at Target and Wal-Mart, or the packs of pretty colored pens for just $1.97 or boxes of markers for .97! Can I be blamed?
This weekend when I walked through the back-to-school aisle of our local discount store-- just to see what they had--I lovingly fingered the composition books I use for journals. But I resisted. I had, after all, just stocked up at Target. But when I passed the aisle with spiral bound notebooks, single subject, in a variety of pretty primary colors for just .17 cents each, I gasped as if staring at Glory itself. Drawn by a power, I swear, beyond me, I picked up five—only five— to add to my collection.
But I stand before you without regret or apology. I can’t be found guilty. It’s a family trait, a genetic inheritance. And, while you may be tempted to disparage me, if you ever find yourself without adequate notebooks or pens, I have a feeling I will be hearing from you. And if I’m feeling very generous, I may share. But not the blue notebook; I like that color...or the red one; it’s my favorite...or the one with the polka dots, because I might really need that one someday…
Keep Writing (if you have the supplies!)