And if you thought the gum-wrapper chain was weird…
… well, allow me to introduce you to my thimble collection.
I’ve just sat and stared at that sentence for a few minutes now before being able to continue typing.
So, yes, my name is Susan and I have a thimble collection. As in, in 1996 or thereabouts, I inherited my late grandmother’s thimble collection: 150-odd decorative little finger helmets, which, for the most part, lie tucked away in an appropriately British-themed cookie tin on top of the wardrobe.
I was not surprised to receive the collection after my grandmother died. I had known that her thimbles were my destiny for as long as I could remember. This is because, on the bottom of the little glass case that housed the thimbles, set among all the various other tchotchkes on her glass etagier, was a piece of masking tape on which was written, in all caps, “THIMBLES AND CASE FOR SUSAN.” You could find such pieces of masking tape throughout her apartment, like some morbid little Easter-egg hunt: lift up a crystal ashtray and congratulate cousin Stephen and his wife Ada on their good luck; check out the underside of a Delft ballerina and give a thumbs up to great-niece Lauren. I swear that those pieces of masking tape had been in place for at least 15 years.
When I was little, I was fascinated by the thimbles. I’m sure I coveted them, the way children covet collections, particularly collections of tiny, pretty things. They held a certain magic, spilling out of their glass case onto the surface around it, just inviting fingers to poke inside them. (And no, I haven’t yet shown them to Rowan and Isaac, even though — in fact, because — the collection will BLOW THEIR MINDS, and I’m not quite prepared for the thimble mayhem that will ensue.)
By the time they came into my possession, though, I found the thimbles as overwhelming as they were fascinating: a motley collection of everything from Limoges and Wedgewood to beat-up plastic and (one of my favourites) the Vegas-themed beauty seen here:
I remember trying to sort through them all in my attic apartment in Toronto’s west end, trying to make some sense of the weight of the collection, how to display it. “They’re just sitting there,” I remember writing in an e-mail to Rachel, “looking menacing.” Because they were, a bit, lined up like rows of troops, just waiting to advance and take over my life, expanding to cover all my flat surfaces. I felt a certain obligation to continue the tradition, pick up a new thimble of each new location the way my grandmother did. And I wondered, Am I going to be the type of person who collects thimbles?
As it turns out, not really. For the most part, the thimbles stay housed in their cookie tin. But every so often, when I’m in a vintage store or at a garage sale, I do a quick scan of the jewelry cases for any particularly fine specimens. I took them out on Friday, though, because Wills and Kate got me thinking about another royal wedding, THE royal wedding for my generation. I didn't watch Charles and Diana get hitched back in 1981, but only because nobody woke me up for the event. And I value my sleep too much today to have considered getting up at 4 AM on Friday. (Plus, I have issues with weddings.) My grandmother, however, was undoubtedly awake and kicking when Will’s parents tied the knot, and I imagine that she would have enjoyed Friday’s spectacle. Bless her, she left me not one but two sets of commemorative Chuck and Di wedding symbols, and I felt the need to pay them a little visit.
I particularly like the Wedgewood daguerreotypes. You’ll notice that I have faced Charles and Diana’s from each other, because it seems only appropriate. I will also admit that I did a quick search on the Interwebs to see what kinds of thimbles might be available for William and Kate, but everything thus far seems a little rough around the edges, particularly in the face of gowns by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen and the like. I’m holding out for Wedgewood, baby — this, despite the fact that I’m sure that Her Royal Highness Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, has never picked up a thimble in her life.
But I have, baby.