The Memory Project
Off the top of my head, natural (Johnny Ketchum)

Impulse buys
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I am Costco's bitch. It's the one place where my impulse buys far outnumber the items on my list. Today, I went in for bottled water and came out with:

A nifty Pyrex cooking/storage system
Super-soft bedsocks
Gel pens.

But the item that briefly tantalized me was a . . . timeclock. I just thought it would be very funny to have it in my kitchen, that I could punch in every morning, make other members of the household punch in and out. If, for example, someone was sitting at a computer, obsessing over rotisserie league baseball, I could pick up his timecard and say, "Dude, I'm punching you out." Just hypothetically.

I've made some weird purchases in my life. Most of them, I don't regret. I still have the antique mirror and halltree I bought at a yardsale, when I was a struggling young reporter in Waco, Texas. My Fiestaware collection began as a lark -- again, a yardsale was involved. A friend recently sent out a group e-mail, looking for a home for an antique chalkboard unearthed in summer cleaning at a local school. I kept thinking there must be a way I could use it.

But perhaps the greatest testament to my impulse buying is the collection of earrings I purchased in the 80s, especially in Mexico. (Ah, there's another wonderful impulse -- the mermaid I bought in Guadalajara when I had too much to drink at lunch.)

I've just emptied out the no-longer-worn earrings onto the table next to me, from a Duracell battery that was converted into a box and decorated with images of Frida Kahlo and her art. Some are far too beautiful to be hidden away -- a set of grape clusters, whose price I rememberd shocked my friends. Silver sacred heart. Delicate mesh ones, decorated with garnets and seed pearls. Several sets of silver hoops, which are more or less in style. Some are just silly -- plastic fishing lures; a "gardening set" (a tiny trowel, a tiny digging fork); jigsaw puzzle pieces. Coins and hearts are multiple motifs.

And the thing is -- this was supposed to be the junk box. I know there's a box upstairs, where I keep the notable oddities of 80s excess -- Raisa and Mikhal Gorbachev (what, you didn't have a pair?); the "wine and cheese" earrings given to me by a beloved friend; and the very large (although very light) Jesus on the cross earrings, which looked like keychains.

What strange collections lurk in your home? What impulse buys do you regret, and what ones are you glad you made? I know it was odd, buying that Foremost ice cream sign in Texas, but it hangs in my kitchen to this day and always inspires this question: What the heck is "Holiday Pudding"?

I haven't a clue.

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