The Odor

For as far back as I can recall in my childhood, I collected baseball cards. There was a period when you could find them printed on cereal boxes, and it was not unusual for my family to find the back panels of the boxes in our cupboard gone, often before the bag of cereal inside had been opened.

As my collection grew, so did my desire to see my parents outfitted with new shoes as often as their budget would allow.

Ask any sports card collector.  Shoeboxes are as precious as any pair of shoes that came in them.

While I was almost alone among my friends in my baseball card mania, when it came to collecting comic books, there was a far greater consensus.  Almost all of my male friends collected comics.  True, individual tastes varied, but the bottom line was that comic books were cool.  From as early a time as I can remember, I read comics, begged my parents to buy them for me.  This love of them predated the beginning of my baseball card collecting.

If not many of my childhood buddies were baseball card collectors, I believe that I was the only one who collected my two favorite magazines, Mad for the humor, and Eerie for the, well, eerie.  I can’t say that the stories in Eerie ever scared me, but they were pretty creepy lots of the time.  I don’t recall now why I didn’t collect Creepy Magazine, but my gut tells me that the stories may not have been eerie enough for my tastes.

Of course, shoeboxes, unless they were oversized, were not a good storage unit for comic books and magazines.  For those, I would scrounge up cardboard boxes at supermarkets, or whine my dad into scrounging a few from his friends and business associates.

My guesstimate is that I stopped collecting all of these things by the end of intermediate school.  Never fear, however, I assure you my collections were impressive.

When I graduated from high school and headed off to college, I had already declared my major in art.  A terrific ceramics teacher inspired me and several of my friends to want to pursue art.  For high school graduation, my parents bought me a kiln and a potter’s wheel, and I converted a no longer used downstairs bedroom into my ceramics studio.

As life goes sometimes, we do not end up doing what we planned to do, and I eventually changed my major.   My interest in ceramics did not wane, however, and I still made full use of that studio right up until I went to grad school in Wisconsin.

The converted bedroom that served as my studio also began a new life as a general storage room.  My father had a fishing business at the time, and there would be all kinds of boat and tackle supplies in there.  Also, along one wall, I had stacked all my baseball card, comic book, and magazine boxes.

Before I left for Wisconsin, my folks asked me what my long-term plans were for them.   I told them I couldn’t decide, that I’d think about it and let them know.

We have always had at least one dog, and usually more.  At one point we reached a family best of five dogs at once.  When I left for Wisconsin, we had three.

At Christmas break, I flew back to Hawai‘i.  Starved for ceramics work while toiling in Madison, one of the first things I wanted to do was get busy in my studio.  And I did.

While I sat throwing a pot on my wheel, a strange sensation crept upon me.  What was that odor?  Now that I thought about it, my eyes burned a bit.  Had my dad stored bottles of ammonia in the room and had one sprung a leak?

I stopped what I was doing and stood up. Following my nose, I found myself over in the part of the room where my collections sat stacked.  I hoped I was wrong, but the boxes were stained, and I could see that they were sitting in liquid.  I lifted one box and it fell apart.  This was on the top row of boxes.  Every baseball card in the box was damp.

Checking boxes nearer the floor, I found that they were soaked.  Not a single card, comic book, or magazine survived the dogs’ waterworks assault.  The cardboard had easily wicked up the urine from the floor.

It took a few trips, but I loaded everything for trash pickup at the curb.  I can’t figure out how my parents could not smell what was going on.  When I told them what had happened, they gave no reaction.

The dogs came in the next day, sniffing around while I was on the wheel.  They looked disappointed that their work of art had been thrown away.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s