Today, I have been sorting and discarding. It is 4 months since Dad died, and two since we cleared the last box out of his bungalow. Since then, the boxes and bags containing the remains of his life have been sitting in our hall, collecting dust. A cold frosty January morning seemed an appropriate time to make a start and deal with them.
Some of the contents have gone straight into the bin – why on earth did I not throw them away months ago? Some have made me smile – photographs of long forgotten holidays with Jason the lemon labrador, the jackdaw Dad saved and reared, the Silkie chick he took in and looked after as a pet. Some have stirred painful thoughts – finding among a pile of papers my mother’s death certificate and the clinical definition of her last few months and eventual death, carcinoma of the colon.
Much of the crockery – tea sets, cake stands, mugs – is all going to the charity shop next time I go into town; I repack those things in paper and re-box them. Some pieces – Mum’s favourite Cornflower dinner service, a few decorative bowls – I will keep as they hold many happy memories of the special occasions when they were brought out of the cupboard for Christmas and birthday parties, wedding anniversaries, Sunday lunch. The Cornflower set was expensive to buy, but Mum wanted it above all things, and it was bought piece by piece until she had a substantial dinner service. Every breakage was mourned, especially when Alfred Meakin stopped making that design. The plates (in three sizes) have survived surprisingly well, the cups and saucers less so. The gravy boat has been very useful, as we are partial to homemade onion gravy and we use the plates for our toast in the mornings, so I suppose the service has now been demoted to everyday crockery. But that’s OK, I believe that things are made to be used not left out of sight and mind.
The most moving discovery has been a cardboard Callard and Bowser chocolate and candy box from the 1940s. It contained every card – birthday, christmas, anniversary, baby arrival – my Mum had received plus quite a lot of the ones she had sent both to Dad and to me when I was a child. Everything from her 21st birthday in 1949, right up to the early 1990s. The box is full and so I cannot add my own considerable collection of cards from (and to) loved ones.
One day, our hall will be empty again, and we shall be able to get out our front door without tripping over another box. The memories will all be tucked away in cupboards and drawers, and we can move on with our lives. But not just yet.