Penny Dockins’ collection of nearly 90 Christmas mice recently scurried out of storage and is ready for the upcoming holiday season. — The Holyoke Enterprise | Johnson Publications
Step aside, forks! Approximately 400 spoons are here to stay at Penny Dockins’ home. — The Holyoke Enterprise | Johnson Publications
After cutting her teapot collection in half, Penny Dockins still has almost 300 unique pieces. — The Holyoke Enterprise | Johnson Publications
Dockins ready for a merry Christmouse
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series about local residents and their unique collections.
’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
But the same cannot be said of Penny Dockins’ house, where the mice have been plenty busy stirring up their own Christmas charm.
From a tradition that started 40 years ago, Dockins has collected nearly 90 Christmas mice and is always looking to add more to her collection every year.
While many people have their own Christmas collections, the fact that this one is mice makes it “something different,” said Dockins.
It all started around 1980 when the three girls in Dockins’ household, including daughter Misty, got to pick out something special for the holiday. All three picked Christmas mice, and the collection has snowballed ever since.
Most of the mice are small figurines or ornaments, making them easy to get out of storage every year in anticipation for the Christmas season. Dockins unpacked them last week at her new home at SunSet View in Holyoke, giving her a chance to look over each one.
Dockins pointed to one mouse in particular — a stuffed animal with a plaid coat and striped scarf — that she says is her favorite. She snatched it from a prize table after getting a strike at a holiday bowling party.
She’s also got Santa mice, elf mice, caroling mice, sledding mice and much more.
Soon her mice will be joined by Dockins’ extensive Santa collection, something that started around 1990 when her daughter bought her a tall Santa as a Christmas gift.
Hundreds of spoons, teapots on display year-round
Dockins’ philosophy on collections is that she doesn’t want to collect something if she can’t have it out on display. “I want people to enjoy them,” she said.
When walking into her home, it’s evident she’s not just a Christmas collector.
Lining the walls is a collection of approximately 400 spoons. Most of them tell a story, whether it’s a souvenir from a fun trip, a history lesson of the 13 colonies or a unique depiction of the U.S. presidents. Dockins’ favorite is a spoon set with a different cabin scene for each month of the year.
The collection dates back to Dockins’ high school days in the 1960s when her mom and grandma went on a trip to California and brought back something special for Dockins and her siblings. Those three spoons from the Golden State jump-started a hobby that would last a lifetime.
Also dotting Dockins’ shelves are teapots — nearly 300 of them.
The collection was actually double that size, but Dockins made the tough, heartbreaking decision to downsize before her recent move. She carefully sorted through the collection, parting ways with the ones that didn’t have as much sentimental value to her.
At the top of the list of special teapots is a wooden one that was a gift from the Methodist church where she used to work. Three more special ones are teapots she inherited from her two grandmas and a great-aunt. Those three are what started her collection in the mid-1980s.
Ironically, Dockins doesn’t often sit down to a cup of tea with one of her teapots, but she makes sure her collections stay in pristine condition with a once-a-year deep clean — no easy task with hundreds of items on display.
For all four of her collections, Dockins keeps an eye out for interesting pieces while traveling, at garage sales or in collection catalogs. And part of the fun is that friends and family can help contribute by giving her something special they found on their own travels.