Friday, 19 September 2008

You can't take it with you....

Why not....why can't I take it and anyway, what's really important?

Don't know about you, but I am a real hoarder. I think if it wasn't for my other half - who likes "cleaning up", I would be one of those old people with piles and piles of newspapers in the front hall and God's forbid 26 cats. (Thankfully, I now have a dog who has a serious hobby - cat chasing, so we are safe, for now).

Actually, I kid you about the 26 cat's, I couldn't live with the combined smells. EW and I'm an embalmer, we have iron stomachs - for smells!

But hoarding is a hard one to shake.

It's not a habit that I chose for myself, it just started to happen. One minute I was minding my own business in my flat, deeply enjoying a wall of books and the rest covered in pictures. Simple life - work and play, play and work. Polish furniture, mend furniture, lacquer doors.

Then it happened - mother died and the questions started. What do I throw away, what do I keep? What's important in my life that was also important in hers - precious enough to save and enjoy living with? Certain things were easy, the Oxfam mountain grew and grew. I moved to accommodate the resulting bulk.

Then, over the years, the rest of them went and you're right, none of them made any attempt to take any of their treasured stuff with them. They had wills, but they only covered theoretically 'important' things bank-manager, tax-man things.

How in the world do you face throwing away bits of red white & blue ribbon saved from 1st World War France?

Yep - somewhere in my crowded house, it's here....somewhere.

However, a friend visited yesterday and he started reminiscing about my 104.5 year old Gran. He knew her while she was alive and helped at her funeral when she died.

(He also kept me on track, when the time came, between house and skip, throughout the whole drawn out episode of choosing artifacts to 'throw', 'keep' or 'Oxfam').

"Well!" he declared, "If they dig up your gran in the future sometime, they'll think she was some kind of royalty with all the stuff we put in her coffin...bits of knitted tat from 'Auntie Wheels and...'".

"Yep...", I replied "remember the Herb Alpert records...and the - and the..." and we spent a funny five minutes recounting all the detritus that we knew she had kept for a really good reason over the years - but for what reason we couldn't begin to guess. Some things we couldn't fathom at all, so in the course of time that the old lady lay in state, in her bedroom in her coffin, we just added and added her treasures to her burial box!(She was 4'2" and I swear that the coffin we gave her was huge - it had to be, to fit all the 'stuff')

It was a serious transition clearing out Gran's place - reminders of 4 generations of family that I am now the solitary remainder of. It was like a series of mini mourning episodes, all of which had to be examined emotionally and dealt with as the physical artifact was given an allotted place on the chosen pile.

No wonder a lot of it has ended up at home!

But what, would I take with me? (A much harder question than what would I grab if the house was on fire that's a practical and logistical question).

The 'taking list'
A photo of my spouse...
The ashes of 'Booby' my cat...(sorry dog)!
A miniature clarinet model...
A very small, very old Teddy...
A small matchbox steam-roller...
A small Buddha...
A Shabti...
All wrapped in a red and white spotted 'running-away' hankie.

But hang on you cry - we thought you were going to be cremated with Booby.

I am, so why not keep the above list intact and make up stories over lunch - over a good bottle of wine.

Discuss: These things were important to Antler - why?

1 comment:

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Oh how fabulous! I have a few things to take with me too. I love the thought of your gran at 4ft2 and her coffin having to be so much bigger to accommodate her stuff.

Great blog!

CJ xx