Tuesday, October 12, 2010




a showy object of little use or value : gewgaw

I'm not sure when my distaste for baubles or trinkets or GIMCRACKS matured into the full-blown abhorrence it is today, but I can remember a time in the remote past when I still treasured these useless objects. That time was defined by an institution known as Hallmark.

The Hallmark card retailer of my childhood was sandwiched between a liquor store and a Carvel ice cream shop in the Klarides Village shopping plaza, a five minute drive from my mother's house. The card shop carried all the usual items—aisles of half-fold sentiments, gift-wrapping supplies, cake toppers, pens and keychains displaying the owner's name (my name NEVER made it onto these novelties, although that didn't stop me from searching for it every time) t-shirts with sail boats or lighthouses that said "Connecticut" in raised italics (check)—but my favorite part of the shop was a glass case by the cash register that showcased porcelain figurines, miniature crystal statues and various other dangerously fragile toys. I loved this display. I would hover over it picking out which GIMCRACKS I would buy if I had "a million dollars" or some other amount of money that was unfathomable ($10? $15?).

Occasionally I would save up money to buy a four-dollar porcelain pet, or ask for something more grand (like the crystal swan and red glass heart mounted on a circular mirror) for a birthday or Christmas. Over the course of a few years, these acquisitions added up to a substantial menagerie of glossy animals I displayed on a wall mounted shelf in my bedroom. Sometimes one would plummet five feet to the carpet, losing a leg or a tail, and hence had to be leaned against the wall for support. Every now and again I would remove all of the figures and wash their dusty hides in a yellow basin filled with soapy water, leaving them to dry on a dish towel.

While I remember the animals fondly, something occurred between then and now that allowed for me to leave them behind without remorse and lose the desire to again purchase anything with so little practical value. My primary investments now include that which can be consumed (nutritionally or intellectually) or utilized (toilet paper, socks, mechanical pencil refills). It is a rare occasion that I buy something for the sole purpose of enjoying its presence. I do intermittently receive such GIMCRACKS as gifts; they usually sit collecting dust for 6-9 months before I guiltily deposit them into a free box with unwanted clothing on the side of the road. They never get basin-baths.

The last GIMCRACK I actually purchased for myself was a button that reads "I love my Pot Belly Bear" around the edge of a photograph of said bear. I found the item in an suitcase full of grimy old buttons in an antique shop in Astoria, Oregon, about a year ago. I bought the pin because my cherished stuffed rabbit, Tubby, (not a GIMCRACK but a wealth of sentimental value) is in fact a pot belly pet, and I was touched to find such a coincidence in a pile otherwise absent of appeal (yet full of danger—all of those unclasped pins are just tetanus waiting to happen). I consider the button useless because I have never worn it.

It currently sits on my bookshelf, collecting dust.

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