“I was at that concert,” said the microwave repairman as he eyed my husband’s masterpiece, hanging in a black floating frame in our kitchen hallway. It was a ticket collage comprised of concert and event stubs, some dating back to the early 80s.
“Everyone finds a concert they were at,” I said, grinning while writing out his check.
My husband, Mark, has kept tickets for three decades, a collection I unearthed during one of our many moves within New York City during the 90s. Housed in a dusty Nike box, I saw what seemed like hundreds of tickets, stacked to the brim. I recall our first exchange after my discovery.
“You’re not keeping these, are you?” I asked, angling to discard useless guy paraphernalia akin to his weathered, concert t-shirts.
“Yeah, of course, don’t throw them out!” Mark spoke with the urgency of an 8-year-old pleading with their mother not to trash his mint condition baseball cards.
“Just pack them, please,” he said.
The contents of that shoebox held sentimental value beyond my comprehension; it embodied a love of music I couldn’t fully appreciate. At first I offered Ziplocs to seal Mark’s stash, then provided a ticket album for better protection. Both attempts at organization were politely dismissed; the Nike box remained his treasure chest of choice.
Two decades later, Mark’s collection had quadrupled in size; a Wal-Mart plastic box was its new home. After his tickets survived a basement flood, I once again, questioned their purpose, circa 2010.
“So what exactly are you doing with your tickets?” I said.
“I’m gonna make a collage,” Mark said, as if that was his intention all along.
I wondered where we would hang such a thing—it wasn’t a statement piece for over the fireplace, nor appropriate for his office at work. Was he serious?
I suppose Mark’s project made sense, as he had an artsy side. He’d made mini, custom collages as gifts marked by photos and words relevant to the individual. Mark was also creative in the kitchen, providing years of gourmet meals with nary a cookbook in sight; he doubled as my gratis personal chef. His genes may be responsible. The son of an artist father and interior designer mother, Mark arrived with good taste and a flair for the aesthetic. He was a hybrid—part artisan, part money manager. Mark’s youth in Rome helped him garner fluent Italian and a true appreciation for style, cuisine and art. His passion for music was an added plus.
Mark set out to fashion his own collage and decided our younger son, Cameron, could make a replica, in miniature. Together, they field-tripped to a local art shop, returning with two canvasses, paint, glue and shellac. Why make the collage now? I mused. Why not continue collecting? Maybe it was part of a mid-life crisis. Maybe it was just time.
Cameron, then 10, sat next to Mark with his kid-sized canvas and hand-me-down tickets. It was the perfect rainy day activity, or so I thought. I didn’t realize it would be a series of ‘rainy days’ before their collages were finished. In fact, our home gym was transformed into an artist’s studio for the better part of a month, complete with toxic fumes to inhale while using the Elliptical. I felt like complaining, but held back and instead, took in the image—father and son, side-by-side, together taking on this mammoth endeavor.
“Got any tweezers?” Mark asked. “How about scissors?”
Like a surgical nurse, I brought him stainless steel tools for his artistic operation. And they were off—sorting through tickets of every shape and color, some from different countries, defining varied phases of his life. I watched as Mark methodically tweezed and secured his mementos.
“Dad, which tickets do I glue first? Should I paint the background?” Cameron asked.
“Whatever you want, it’s your canvas buddy,” Mark diplomatically replied, his arm loosely around Cammy’s shoulder. “When you’re done, we’ll show grandpa.”
Over the years, I’ve donated tickets to Mark’s prized collection and half-heartedly, he’s accepted them. Collage Day upon us, I had hope they’d make the cut. Unfortunately, many did not. I’d kept those with significance such as that to Broadway’s “A Few Good Men,” our first date. I remember that night clearly. He picked me up way too early; his dark hair gelled into place. I was in pre-primping mode without makeup, wearing Benetton sweats. Young city dwellers, we ventured out to the Great White Way, having pre-theater drinks at the famed Marriott Marquis. The rotating bar had made a 180-degree turn, and when I returned from the restroom sans my glasses, I’d lost Mark. We still laugh about it.
As it turned out, Mark decided our first date stub was a keeper, but rejected my David Cassidy comeback tour ticket. Our older son, Grant’s, Yankees ticket—from a game where he’d caught a foul ball—was chosen; that to his kindergarten Flag Day concert was benched. A torn stub to The Wiggles back in their prime—when Mark brought Cameron and deemed the outing ‘the longest hour and a half of his life’—made first string, Cammy’s preschool Christmas Pageant ticket did not.
Mark had a definite selection process, but at first, there seemed no pattern. The collage sported a Def Leopard ticket from a concert in Germany, one from a Simon and Garfunkel show in Central Park, and everything in between. I thought, for sure, my Valentine’s Day Matchbox Twenty / Alanis Morissette combo would be a finalist, but no such luck. The collage was a visual playlist, a tribute to his love affair with music.
Though seemingly random, Mark picked tickets meaningful to him. He chose what mattered. Some stubs symbolized his youth, others his college days, still others our courtship. There were tickets depicting fatherhood and those marking vintage guys nights out. For weeks, he selected favorites, giving Cameron a steady flow of rejects. Their collages complete, Mark’s memories were forever frozen. A trip to the framer followed.
Mark’s collage has become a magnet of sorts as visitors are drawn to it. They are bowled over by its breadth. Scanning it slowly, they share brushes with fame and war stories alike. Much like an aroma that stirs a recollection, the collage triggers moments both musical and otherwise. It calls forth their pasts. I, too, am pulled by its allure, as I’m part of the life it represents.