My husband collects baseball memorabilia. It is not a passing fancy; he’s seriously collected for more than 30 years. As a result, he has lots of stuff: uniforms, caps, gloves, bats, balls, helmets, bobble heads, photos, autographs. I live in the midst of this collection. It is not uncommon to find a baseball on the bathroom counter or uniforms strewn about the living room posing for a photo shoot. Sometime, I think I’d like my home to be “normal” and Southern Living-like in the way I imagine normal families’ homes must be.
When we have company over, the first thing guests want to see beyond the memorabilia decorating the living area is “the baseball room.” Even baseball-ignorant people are awed by the attention my husband has invested. His love of the game is tangible and an experience guests enjoy. I often wish I could charge admission since starting our own museum is out of the question. I confess that I’ve not been keen on living among baseball artifacts, which I have sometimes referred to as junk. My preference would be library-like with floor-to-ceiling shelves packed neatly with books I love.
Guests’ enthusiasm over his stuff/my plight took on new meaning as I pondered Denton recently. Chet Garner, host of PBS’ “The Daytripper,” visited twice in the past 12 months. If you’ve ever seen the show, you know Chet likes to ferret out the weird and unusual people and places in a destination. His Denton episodes honed in on Recycled Books, the Mini Mall on the square, Mad World Records, Rooster’s Roadhouse’s famous Hell Burger, and Beth Marie’s. All uniquely Denton places. A history channel show called “American Pickers” just wrapped up a Denton episode where they are picking through a Denton collector’s “junk” because to their viewers, that junk is a gold mine. These shows see our funky as a treasure trove. And so it is to the world out there even when we stop seeing it.
What I’m saying is that we often devalue our most fascinating characteristics because we live within their midst. We grow bored of them, loathe them, ignore them, or wish we could be like everybody else for a change. Places sometimes slip into homogenous thinking in an effort to keep up with the municipal version of the proverbial Jones. The fact is, though, that our original, independent, and all-be-it sometimes weird stuff is an attraction that other people think is super special because it’s different than their stuff, and they want to see it.
Our city is in a season of unprecedented growth. New businesses are coming. New roads are on the way. New schools. New stores. New restaurants. New people. This is a good thing because stagnant places die. Living is growth, movement, change. Will we grow up to be like everybody else? I hope not. Losing our original, independent sense of place would be incredibly sad and completely unfacinating.
I’m beginning to better understand my husband’s passion and why it enthralls others. If he and people like him don’t hold on to remnants of the past, trinkets of simple characteristics and traditions that today are giant empires, how will anyone ever appreciate the heart at their beginnings? Similarly, if we fail to foster and empower the creative energy of our people and do not marry the new with our wealth of old, how will we hold on to our special sense of place? Even more challenging, how will we perpetuate it into Denton’s future? Too many places have forfeited their character on the altar of development, mere pockets of their past uniqueness barely clinging to life under the tidal wave of exponential sprawl.
So, ours isn’t the Southern Living cover house. But it’s home and what we’ve made it living life within its walls. I’m committing now to recall my newfound understanding every time I move a baseball from a table or hang a jersey in the closet. I’ll exercise l patience should baseball paraphernalia encroach onto my bookshelf among my novels. And, as for Denton, I’ll do the same, even when something new bumps up against one of my favorite olds.