I enter the room almost tentatively and take my seat. "My name is Marilyn and I collect royalty books"
The group and it's leader says in unison "Welcome Marilyn"
I relax a little, not feeling so alone any longer. The moderator, his calm and soothing voice says "tell me more about your collection, when did it start?"
"Well, I guess it started when Prince William was born - I remember hearing it on the radio"
"My collection began during the Silver Jubilee celebrations" a man named George says to me while fingering his commemorative mug.
"After Prince Willliam was born I started to collect the books, cutting pictures out of the newspapers and magazines. I stayed up for the wedding of Prince Andrew and Fergie"
Several members of the group nod in unison. They've been in the trenches, they understand. "I went to London and camped out on the street during the wedding of Charles and Diana." A petite woman named Betty says. We look at her in awe.
"Do you have any flags or tea towels?" Bob asks.
"Yes, I have everything..the oven mitts, the ashtrays, the Charles and Diana salt and pepper shakers.." Betty says, breaking down. "I can't help myself.."
The moderator offers her a kleenex, the woman next to her gently takes her hand. "The purpose of this group is to offer support in a non-judgemental way. Betty, you're safe here."
"No one understands" I say, tears welling in my eyes. "I love my books, the thrill of the hunt of going into a used book store, scouring the shelves to add to my collection." I've moved three times and my friends have helped carry some of the boxes. I know they humor me, one of them even joked that I should start a stamp collection because it's lighter."
"What's wrong with having a stamp collection? GeorgeV has a rather famous one.." Chris says.
"Marilyn isn't judging you Chris, everyone here has something that they collect, whether it be books, t-shirts, keychains. Ed was supposed to be here today but he's buying Charles and Camilla souvenirs with the original wedding date for me." The moderator says. "How many books do you have?"
"Over two hundred. I also have some mugs, plates and I went to Althorp"
"Mecca" Betty says with breathless reverence.
"That's just crazy!" John, says, getting up to get another tea and scone from the snack table. He paces nervously. "People say that I have a problem!"
I stand up to my full height, look him in the eye "yes, I did go and I'm not ashamed to admit it." I say proudly
"The first step is owning your collection and your passion. People may not understand but that's okay. Not everyone has to share the same interests, that's what makes the world go 'round."
I sit down and sigh, a wave of relief comes over me. "When people ask me what I do in my spare time and I tell them about the books, their expressions change. The peer pressure is enormous so I end up telling people that I collect Elvis memorabilia instead. It's more acceptable."
"I tell people that I collect thimbles.." John says, looking down. "I'm so ashamed.."
I get up and walk over to John and hug him.
"We're home John, we're home"
© Marilyn Braun 2005
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