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Updated: Feb 13, 2021

The OG camel in my collection

I collect camels. Over the years, I have purchased and been gifted SO MANY camels! I haven't counted them all, but there are almost 200 camels, in some form or other, currently on display in my house (I just realized there is a camel in every room but one. I will have to fix that stat!) That doesn't include the camels in 6 or 7 boxes in storage!

I have leather camels, wooden camels, and a camel made of Legos. There are ceramic, clay, marble, and blown-glass camels in my collection. I also have camels on pillows, camels on iPhone cases, camels in photographs and camel jewelry. I even have a photo from the 1970s of my husband's grandmother riding a camel in Egypt! At this point, my only criterion for choosing to buy a camel or not when I see one is: would this be unique in my collection? If the answer is no, the camel doesn't come home with me.

People often ask me, "why camels?" Well, the answer lies in a visit to my great aunt, Sis, when I was about sixteen years old. Sis was my grandfather's oldest sister. Her real name was Robbie Lee, but all four of her siblings called her "Sis," and that moniker carried on with her siblings children and grandchildren. Sis was a schoolteacher and social worker. She never married and traveled the globe collecting all kinds of interesting things. Her house was somewhat like a museum, with tchotchkes, artifacts, photographs, and books covering every available surface. (She was also an expert at baking sourdough bread!)

Sis was born in 1910 and, when she was in her early-to-mid seventies, every time you would visit her at home, she would implore you to take one of her fabulous objects. She would say, "well, I won't be here forever, I want you to take something." (Now mind you, she lived to be ninety-five-years old, so any hint she might have been making of her impending demise was not warranted!) On the way to a visit with Sis when I was about sixteen, I told my mother in the car that it always made me uncomfortable when Sis asked me to take something. I told Mom that I wanted Sis to keep her treasures and continue to enjoy them, rather than giving them away. (It never dawned on me until writing this that maybe Sis was doing her own version of de-cluttering by asking family to take some things!) My mother's advice for this visit was, "if she asks you to take something, take something that is very minor in her collection."

This was sage advice (as my mother's advice always is). As expected, Sis asked me to take something from her home near the end of the visit. I had been looking around during while we were there, in anticipation of her request, and had decided to select an olive-wood camel that she had gotten on one of her many trips to Israel (or the Holy Land, as she called it.) She had several camels from her travels and I figured she probably wouldn't miss this one too much. Well, I didn't realize it then, but I was now a collector of camels!

Once word got out to family and friends, camels began pouring in. Every gift-giving opportunity included camels. Everywhere I traveled, I looked for camels, so my collection grew, and grew, and grew! I will likely never have enough space to display all of my camels. I would like to institute a rotation so that those that are in boxes, would be able to see the light of day for at least part of the year. But so far, that hasn't happened. A girl can dream, right?

Do you have a collection that started from a gift from a relative or from something passed down to you from an ancestor? If so, tell us about it in the comments!

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