An old friend hides his stash in the top drawer of his bedroom dresser. It’s a plastic bag, bloated between balled socks and spare change. I’ve never seen anything like it.
“What?” he asks, juggling the bag between his hands.
I shrug and shake my head with a smile. “Nothing,” I say, “It’s just weird, I guess.”
He peels the bag open, dumps its contents out onto the dresser. “I’ve got about four years’ worth right here. And I remember every single one — who I went with, when we went.
“Oh, c’mon. You’re telling me that you don’t collect ticket stubs?”
… Huh. I guess not.
You could call me a collector: I’ve got binders of Pokémon cards, stacks of Britney Spears albums and a short list of famous and fictional husbands. But movie ticket stubs? You watch, endure or snooze through a film — then it’s over. What’s the point of saving scraps of trash for “sentimental value”? That’s not a collection; it’s a symptom of hoarding … or so I thought.
I’d never heard a film spoken about in the way that music lovers fawn over the classics or in the way that self-proclaimed book nerds leak enthusiasm and simultaneous dread every time a chapter reaches its end. Film has never fit itself into my nostalgic conversations — not in the way that I lay back in the passenger seat of my best friend’s car and marvel at the way a song sucks us back into certain moments with certain people in certain places.
We don’t discuss films like familiar scents from childhood, not like how a waft of lemon Pledge is my band-camp cabin or how a spritz of Victoria’s Secret “Love Spell” is middle-school locker rooms. I’d never thought film captured what songs could latch onto, not like how All Time Low’s “Remembering Sunday” is post-graduation bonfires ringed by boys with guitars and “Skinny Love” is mornings-to-afternoons buried in bedsheets.
So, as fond as I am of the Olsen twins’ “Passport to Paris,” it just doesn’t “take me back” — in fact, it doesn’t take me anywhere (and certainly not to Paris). A trip to the theater was just that: a trip to the theater. Nothing more, nothing less (unless I conceded and sprung for another pack of Sour Patch Kids. Then it cost a little more).
As the pile of ticket stubs spilled across the dresser, I channeled my inner Patron of the Arts. Plot twist: She is unsurprisingly cliché. Film just doesn’t … speak to me, I thought. Or maybe we were simply speaking two different languages. Had I grown deaf? I wanted my deep emotional resonance, and I wanted it now!
It turns out that I just wasn’t looking — or listening — hard enough.
Film fooled me. It presented itself as an isolated experience with no more residual significance than the buzz of background noise while music, on the other ear, offered the definitive soundtrack to my teenage years and rites of passage. I thought film was nothing special, and certainly nothing to document and collect in my drawers. But after some digging through my DVD collection and my memory, my socks and the lacy like, I realized that — oh, how the words pain me — I was wrong.
To this day, I refuse to watch “The Year Without a Santa Claus” since the night when, as the Heat Miser spit fire, my 8-year-old self spewed less-exciting substances all over the living-room couch. Cringe.
“The Temptations” will forever remind (or haunt, to be more accurate) me of my middle-school band room where, at least once a month, Mrs. Scott would pull the window blinds tight and “tsk” at every saxophone player who’d made his music stand a headrest.
And “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” is branded onto my psyche as that bittersweet movie that stimulates both my tear ducts and my gag reflex (for very different reasons than “Claus”). These aren’t just movies anymore. They’re a part of my identity.
I’m still a collector: Boxes of Seventeen Magazine have lined my family’s garage shelves since 2005 (they’ll be useful one day!). And, now, faded ticket stubs dot the bulletin board above my desk, pinned and jammed and stuck by magnets. Call me a hoarder (of memories!), but hey, maybe some things are worth saving.