Friday, August 21, 2009

Dad's World

My dad collected matchbooks. He didn’t buy them or trade them with other collectors. But he’d pick them up at restaurants, hotels, and businesses that offered them as promotional items. So each item in the collection has a direct connection to a trip he took or event he attended. After dad died, mom went on a cleaning binge and was ready to throw the entire collection out. The matchbooks were all stuffed haphazardly into several ziplock bags, and she didn’t know what to do with them.

I offered to take them home. I’m as much of a packrat as my parents – what was one more bag?Besides, I just didn’t feel right tossing something that apparently meant something to him. I’m not sure what he had planned to do with them, but I promised myself I’d do something. Maybe I’d tackle a project I saw on HGTV where they took the matchbooks apart, laid them flat on a board, and then covered them with a coat of varnish. Or maybe I’d keep them intact and display them in a shadowbox.

Yesterday I had one of those rare days when I didn’t have any appointments or commitments. I took the bag of matchbooks out and started to sort them. It’s been four months since dad left us, but I still felt him at my shoulder as I handled them. I wanted to turn around and ask him about some of the interesting ones. About half the collection was from their trip to Japan – beautifully designed pieces of art with elegant characters I can’t decipher. Another third were from other trips and various casinos he and mom liked to visit. And the rest were from local businesses and attractions. There were four from my stepdaughter’s wedding fourteen years ago.

I separated them, took out the duplicates, put each category in a separate bag, and put them away again. I’m going to need a bigger shadow box than I thought. But I had a wonderful time connecting with dad again, seeing the world through his eyes. He had a full, productive life that I can only hope to emulate. It’s a big, wonderful world, and his matchbooks were his way of bringing pieces of it home with him.

I know I promised pictures, so here’s one – these are the dishcloths I made during my “Senior Road Trip” from my last post.


  1. I think making a shadow box is a very cool idea. And if it helped you connect with your dad, then I think it's worth storing an extra baggie or two.

  2. I think it's wonderful that you're doing something with your Dad's collection.

    I still have the sweater my Gram was knitting for me when she died - it's still on the needles, with the front panel half finished. I've thought about finishing it myself...or more likely, having my mom finish it, but neither one of those options feels right. I like the shadow box idea and I think I might put it in one of those and hang it in my office.

    I hope you'll post pictures when you finish the matchbook shadow box.

  3. Wow, the unfinished sweater in a shadow box would make a cool display - and I can understand why it wouldn't feel right for someone else to finish it. I'll post my picture (of the finished shadow box) if you'll post yours!

  4. What a moving story and what a great idea to preserve your Dad's collection. I'm so glad you didn't let them be thrown away.

    I like the Display Case idea. I'd use double-faced tape to mount then but get the heavy duty stuff not the lightweight photo tape.

    Meijer currently has some Shadow box frames in both light and espresso finishes on sale on an endcap at 50% off I think. They'll also be putting a bunch of other display cases on clearance in about a week. They are currently 40% off but will go deeper in about a week or so.

    ~ Marti

  5. It's so nice that you were able to still feel your dad's presence while taking care of his collection. My mom passed away about 4 months ago too and there are some things that just make me feel closer to her.