Two years ago, I went shopping for dorm supplies in local antique stores. I was hoping to find a bowl for my perfume bottles, some wall decorations, and maybe a mirror. I bought a little wooden bowl and an elephant. Mostly, I bought an elephant.
There’s nothing too spectacularly antique about him; he probably hails from the seventies or some other era whose artifacts I would consider retro or simply old, but not yet antique. I bet I paid far too much for him. He does appear to be hand carved, though—I suppose I paid for the uniqueness. That’s what I told myself.
That day, I decided I would begin collecting elephants. One of my elementary school friends had amassed a terrifyingly huge collection of turtle paraphernalia by the age of eleven, so it really couldn’t be too difficult. I loved the idea of having a substantial collection of elephants in my possession. I would have a treasure trove of conversation topics sitting quietly about my dwelling, just begging for me to ramble off into a dramatic story about how I bartered with the little old lady at the flea market for that one elephant on that one shelf. In two years, I purchased only one new elephant, a poster that was never hung on my wall and has since faded away into some deep corner of my parents’ house. Two years later, I still have just one elephant and one lackluster story.
I think my first elephant may have accidentally set the bar a little too high; so high, in fact, that I fear he is destined to live a solitary life. He’s not that great, but somehow, nothing else is good enough. I’ve often heard people asked to list what five, ten, or twenty things they would save from their theoretically burning house. My elephant would make my list. My silly, lonely, asymmetrically-tusked wooden elephant is one of my proudest possessions.