If you do a Google search, you will probably realise that some of the old junk in your home could well be a “collector’s item” or a “collectible”, something that could earn you a pretty penny if you sold it to the right person.
In our garage, all jumbled up in a couple of old plastic drums and several steel cupboards are an assortment of toys and figurines from the 1990s, once new but well-worn enough to now announce how well liked they were and how imaginatively they were used to construct whole new worlds for a toddler and then a growing child who held up a plastic sword and declared, “By the power of Gray Skull!” and expected us to acknowledge (and applaud) that he had transformed himself into his favourite hero and was on his way to saving the world!
There are also comic books from way back in the past — not because we or our parents recognised the price they would fetch one day and therefore saved our collections, but because we diligently searched through dusty piles of books and comics of Sunday pavement sellers and sometimes came home with gems we had acquired for just a rupee or two!
None of these things would fetch a premium in any market — but to us, they are priceless pieces of family history that hold the past steadfastly as long as there is one of us left to remember it
Out of sheer inertia, we did not get down to discarding what we look upon as piles of unnecessary stuff that no one could possibly want to handle anymore, much less play with or read. But now, with Google having enlightened us, we quip that if we just ignore all of it for a while longer and let it languish there in our garage, we could actually make a little fortune out of it someday!
Days of innocence
Of course, that is not going to happen. Because that toddler who held up his plastic sword is now grown and will not let us do it! He is not interested in any potential increase in value. What he is probably thinking of, like us, are those long ago days of innocence and pure belief that he could actually save the world with a few swipes of an imaginary sword, several high-pitched warnings to the “bad guys” and a lot of good intentions.
Don’t we all cling to memories of our childhood? And if we are honest enough, we will probably also admit that we of the older generation carry our nostalgia for the past even further.
For we do not merely cling to our own memories and memorabilia, but we are loath to discard those of our parents and our grandparents, our aunts and our uncles, all going back a century or more.
We appease our conscience by telling ourselves that we are merely holding in our custody what was precious to them and we are fine with our children and our nieces and nephews and their children taking it all away bit by bit.
Floodgates of memory
But for now it is all here with us and as we empty out the household of the last member of our parents’ generation, we cannot let go of the little stuff or the large: A sturdy corner table, vintage unknown, that once held music books and records, then cassettes and then CDs; the salad bowl and the teapot we remembered from sit-down dinners and tea parties decades ago; glass tumblers that all the sisters of that generation had bought when they visited the glass factory in the district where our father was posted; Christmas decorations that have seen better times but are too unique to toss out … Open up the floodgates of memory and the list becomes endless.
None of these things would fetch a premium in any market — but to us, they are priceless pieces of family history that hold the past steadfastly as long as there is one of us left to remember it.
— Cheryl Rao is a journalist based in India.