To the uninitiated, these represent childhood memories of pretend car races. To me, they symbolize the manifestations of a lifelong obsession, a compulsive obsession.
At the tender age of 12, my son was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. His rituals involve small, die-cast toys. Mainly cars, but it can also mean tiny motorcycles, airplanes, military vehicles, just about anything small enough that you could hold it in your hand.
His collecting began much earlier, probably when he was five or six. He would pick up and keep anything small. I would regularly find his pants pockets filled with found treasures…. broken bits of ink pens, twisted paper clips, stones, bottle caps, rusted bolts.
As he matured, we’ve been able to help him channel his need to accumulate and categorize his collection into one type of object. In the ensuing 10 years, that collection of vintage and foreign-made die-cast and tin toys has grown to number in the thousands.
He knows every car and airplane, and can tell you if one is out of place. He has his own method of organization. It may not make sense to an outsider, but to him, the way he displays and collates these miniatures, quiets his anxiety.
I dare not move a car to dust around it, for fear that I won’t replace it in exactly the right spot. I help him sort out the cars by color, type, make and model. I peruse the toy shelves at various stores and thrift shops to add to his collection.
It may seem like enabling to some, but I know how important it is to him that I accept his obsession without judging him, and by minutely adding to his collections, it means that I accept him too.
That is the heart of it all. Acceptance. To love him, unconditionally…