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Wednesday, 3 April 2013


There are rooms in my house that are as foreign to me as another country. I enter them occasionally and am immediately transfixed by the sheer volume of rubbish in them.

It is then that I am driven to wonder where all the contents that are strewn across the bed, the floor and even the window sills, have come from. Because as sure as night follows day, I didn’t put them there.

But before you jump to conclusions, let me explain. I have three children. Now logically you may think three children = three children’s bedrooms [messy perhaps but containable]. Believe me the reality is far, far different.

Like large messy magpies, my children seem to adore collecting the obscure and [in my opinion] needless junk that masquerades as interesting souvenirs. Bits of ripped paper, used train tickets and a fragment of a box that once contained a watch, are prime examples of this.

I know this because I have spent the last two hours wading through all this paraphernalia, trying to make sense of it all. But in the midst of all the dusting and removing of grime, a memory surfaced.

Once there was a little metal tin. Inside the little metal tin was a little metal hairslide, a little metal brooch and some other odds and ends. I know this because the little metal tin and its contents belonged to the eight year-old me.

And I treasured that tin. Not because the contents belonged to me but because they had once belonged to someone who had been very important to my father. They had belonged to his mother.

My father had a very difficult childhood, fraught with family secrets and skeletons in the cupboard but he had loved his mother, who had died relatively young. And he had kept this little box for many years, only passing it on to me, his step-daughter, when he realised that I too was the sort of person who would understand why he kept the box.

Now if you were to ask him why he had kept it, I guess he would say that it was a memento. And it was.        

But it was also so much more than that. It was a gateway into the memories of his childhood, the smell of his mother’s hair and the feel of her lips on his cheek as she kissed him goodnight. It was the sound of her voice and the taste of cool lemonade on a hot summer’s day.

It was all the things he would want to remember of his childhood and some of the things he would not but which came as a package nonetheless.

And the tin still exists. It no longer takes pride of place in my bedroom but it has not been forgotten. It has become by the importance vested in it, not only a part of my father’s life and childhood, but my own too.

In these days of throwaway items, tvs that are cheaper to re-purchase than to repair and washing machines that seem to be designed to break down as soon as the warranty expires, I wonder what we will leave as mementos for future generations.

Our houses are filled with expensive rubbish made of plastic and chipboard. We now live in a throwaway society and it is this very mindset which is becoming entrenched not only in our decorating choices but in our moral standards and values too.

So, if like me, you are spring cleaning a little over this Easter period, be careful what you throw away…because you might just throw away something worthless which is absolutely priceless…

 

 

 

 

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