You can tell a lot about a person by their bookshelves. My husband and I were keenly aware of this when we moved into our house and unpacked our collection of books into our built-in shelves, which take up almost an entire wall in our family room. My husband gave prominent placement to the classics (Shakespeare, Salinger and Lee) along with some of our most favorites (King, Roth and Wolfe.) I placed my chick lit, how to guides and other questionable choices on much higher shelves hoping not to draw too much attention to them. The random, hodgepodge books including Howard Stern’s Private Parts, a marketing textbook from grad school and the one about my husband’s jugs are scattered throughout the wall.
Our close friend discovered the jugs book one evening during a dinner party at our house while perusing through our built-ins. I could see his eyes fixate on the curious looking book as he pointed to the title written in large print on the book’s spine, “JUGS”
“Hey Rach,” he said. “What’s up with your husband’s jugs?” The obvious jokes flew. We all took part in the mocking (my husband too) taking a joke to its most extreme as we often do.
My husband came clean. He bought the jugs book years ago in an effort to learn more about the collection of Royal Doulton miniature jugs he (and I guess we!) inherited from his great aunt even more years ago.
Family legend says that my husband took an early interest in these miniature jugs during his childhood. His great aunt traveled the world collecting the jugs, each representing a famous historical character, some fictional and some not. I can completely picture my young husband’s fascination with these tiny replicas. His great aunt took note of his interest and promised him the jugs one day.
She kept her promise. Not long after she died, a giant box of the characters arrived at our house. It was as if props for World History/American History/Art History classes invaded our home. My husband unpacked the box placing each character in a specific place and order in a hutch of ours, which sits at the top of our stairs on our second floor. I have taken my own fair share of mocking for “making” him put the collection out of sight clear from the main floor of our house, especially since my family’s antiques and artifacts get much more prominent placement in our dining room, living room and the like. I am aware of this.
The upstairs placement of the jugs has actually turned out to be a good thing. Again, the jokes have flown. There are theories floating around among our friends that my husband talks to the characters late at night when he can’t sleep – that they come alive then and re-live their sordid famous lives of the past talking back to him. But the friends and others only jest for so long.
On the night our good friend discovered the book, my husband brought him and others upstairs to check out the collection, and they became enthralled and borderline obsessed as truthfully most people do when they take a good look at the collection. They are really very interesting. And there are a lot of them – so many so that my husband threatens to take them on Antiques Roadshow one day and see what we can get for them.
Whenever someone makes the trip upstairs to check out the jugs, they have so many questions. They want to know if we originally had Henry the 8th and all 6 of his wives. No we did not. We only had 5 of them and my husband purchased the 6th one on eBay (presumably in a late night bidding war with another lifelong student of history/jugs fan.) They want to know which ones we like best and we answer.
My husband ‘s favorites include The Mikado and Long John Silver and mine are Winston Churchill and Mark Twain. Others have gotten to know our jugs pretty well. One of my husband’s friends from college, a long ago jugs fan convert, will text my husband every now and then with an update of a hot jug missing from the collection which he spotted up for auction. My good friend from high school, checks in every now and then on our upstairs people as well. Point being, you can make fun of the jugs for only so long. Eventually, they win you over.
I’ve come to accept the jugs as part of our family. I like thinking about my husband’s long ago childhood interest. But I really like that there is a part of his past in our house, which as I think about it more and more, is way too one sided in my taste and my family heirlooms (which he tells me is good with him by the way.)
I also like it that my husband has interests that you wouldn’t necessarily suspect he had. My husband (who hates it when I write about him, and who I got special dispensation from to write this piece) is known to many as a good, smart guy with a dry sense of humor and a desire to get out on the golf course whenever he can. But relatively few people (until now I guess!) know about his jugs collection and I will tell you, his budding interest in art as well as his online chess and NY Times crossword puzzle obsessions.
I think I’ve made my obsession with accessories and fashion known to all as well as my love of baking and yoga and my golfing aspirations . But I must confess now that I’ve outed our collection of upstairs mini people, that I am also a knitter (scarves only), a mahjongg player and wanna be balabusta. So really, I am an old lady just waiting to happen, and I’m good with that.
I know others with varied interests (some hidden and some not) in photography, model trains, beading, refinishing furniture, pickle ball, calligraphy and more. I think it’s so cool – all of it! We are all so much more than what we show others on our surfaces, what our resumes say and what we seemingly do in our every day lives. Let’s talk about all the other things we do, we want to do, we want to learn how do to.
We’ve got the jugs. What about you?