My colleague, managing editor Tom Bartsch, wrote a column in the June 19 issue of SCD recounting a story about a baby boomer whose mother threw out his baseball cards. I can hear you already, saying that such a revelation is hardly news, and you would be right. But that isn’t the end of the story.
Turns out, when the man got into his 40s and his son started collecting, he noticed something as the house filled up with baseball cards. His son was buying a lot of the same cards that he had once owned. When Grandma realized how much her grandson enjoyed the collecting and how much her son was involved in the hobby as well, she started feeling guilty about having thrown out the cards years ago.
And so she asked her son what the original collection might have been worth, with Editor Bartsch speculating that there may have even been a bit of accounting for inflation. And mom volunteered to pony up $3,000 ostensibly to clear her conscience for having done what mothers did all across America.
I was relieved that there was no hint of a way to identify anyone involved in this, leaving me free to point out the obvious: this is sooo wrong on sooo many levels. Even conceding the possibility that the collector fiercely resisted and that mom insisted, the notion of a mother paying for this particular “transgression” is nothing short of appalling.
Though I wouldn’t typically bother to invoke this argument, you could suggest that without moms everywhere tossing the cards out, the very hobby resurgence that you saw in the late 1970s and early 1980s might never have happened. Moms were merely performing their vital role in the grand cosmic scheme of things and to have done otherwise might have upset the space/time continuum and created one of those black holes in the universe.
But mostly it’s just silly because the responsibility for holding on to valued material of any description should reside with the person who values the material. You don’t even have to be a mature adult to understand the concept, since I was able at age 18 to politely tell my mother, “I am leaving to join the U.S. Navy (technically, she already knew that part) and I would like you to leave the baseball cards untouched in my absence.”
I could have added, but didn’t, that while I understand that these are supposedly childish things, I would nonetheless like to hang onto them into adulthood, either for the reason of passing them along to offspring who might be interested in the hobby or merely for purposes of potential monetary appreciation.
And lo and behold, there they were, four years later, unmolested and intact. I’ve been tempted to get a T-shirt made that says, “I asked my mother not to throw away my baseball cards, and by golly, she didn’t!”