When I was a child my mother decided that I should collect stamps. She bought me an album for the stamps, gave me a whole bunch of pre-collected stamps, and told me to sort out my collection.
After that she kept giving me stamps she’d steamed off envelopes, and even pre-ordered special new stamps which were about to be released.
Every time I told her that I wasn’t interested in stamps and didn’t want to collect them, she’d tell me that I was being an ungrateful brat. She knew what was best for me, she wanted me to learn about the world through the stamps, and to teach me to be responsible, follow through on projects I’d started.
But… she had also told me that the reason she had a whole bunch of pre-collected stamps was because her father had made her collect stamps when she was a child. She hated her father. She hated being forced to collect stamps by him. She hated his disapproval of her inability to become a proper stamp collector.
My mother regularly told me stories about her childhood. They were usually ones about how she had suffered, how cruel everyone had been to her.
They were shared with me for several reasons.
One of which was to make me shut up if I ever complained about anything – she’d had it worse, she hadn’t been allowed to complain and she had been punished whenever she had complained.
When I injured myself – she’d done something far more dramatic and painful. When I was upset – none of my upsets were ever as big as hers, mine were irrelevant compared to hers. If I had a problem – her problems as a child and as an adult were a million times more serious, mine were silly.
Another of which was that she wanted to let me know how lucky I was to have a mother who didn’t do to me what had been done to her.
I was often confused as a child, trying to make sense of what I was being told versus what was actually happening.
If I pointed out to my mother that she was forcing me to collect stamps the way she’d been forced to collect stamps, I’d be forcefully told that it was not the same at all and completely different.
What she was doing to me was good because she was a good person, what her father had done to her was bad because he was a bad person.
After about the hundredth time my mother had to check up on the progress of my stamp collection because I couldn’t be trusted, had a tantrum about my not having done anything with it and lectured me on the awful truth about myself and emphasised the marvelous magnificence of herself, I dutifully put all the stamps into the album, organised them by country, and read the book on stamps which I’d been generously given since I loved stamps.
When she saw it, of course I’d done it all wrong, but she was pleased that the valuable lesson which she had been teaching me had finally gotten through my thick stupid stubborn skull.
I have a collection of other stories like that. Many other stories like that. I share some of my collection on my blog.
Those stories inspired me to collect something else…
Questions like these:
That’s it for now…
I’d like to thank:
Laura Venturini of Lauravent69 for her question – Do you collect anything? – in her Getting to Know You challenge
The Reverist of Riddles & Reveries for noticing that I answered that question with a simple – Yes – and for asking me for more information, I think I will always be surprised when people seem to show a genuine interest in me.
Over to you!