Still Unpacking – memories and discoveries
I shed some tears this afternoon. Sitting on the floor surrounded by my possessions, some of which have been in storage for a long time and so have been met with gasps of recognition as each piece of wrapping is removed.
Tears of joy to be reunited with family treasures and items I have hoarded since goodness knows when, and tears of pain as this little ornament or that reveals damage or long loved books smelling of damp, the pages now stuck together. My Daphne Du Maurier collection looks as if it has been holed up in the basement at Jamaica Inn for years.
I cried when photographs would not come unstuck from the glass framing them and prising them results in tears or wrinkles. I have left them to dry (hopefully) in the little sun which has appeared late this afternoon through my sitting-room windows. The photos have negatives which I doubt can be salvaged after all this time, so these are most likely the only copies.
I know that they are only things but so much of one’s life is tied up in things when you think about it. Things you had when you were little remind you of a time or place or person. Things you had when out on your first date, such as the silly plastic flower that was in the very first Snowball I ever drank. I think it was the very first time I had been in a pub and I can remember feeling so grown up having alcohol and such a sophisticated drink at that! It has been with me since 1968. How sad is that!
Then there are the vases left to me by my grandfather who died in 1966 and which were his mother’s – over 150 years old I guess. I unwrapped the two tall green Victorian looking vases and nearly cried out loud as I noticed the smashed top of one. They have been with me since 1966 and both times they’ve been damaged they have been in the temporary care of someone else. I cannot believe that they survived all those years only to be so abused whilst theoretically in my possession.
I loved those vases as a small child. I would gaze upon them in grand-dad’s parlour, high on the mantle-piece out of reach, and wonder about them. When they were left to me I could not believe it. I was a teenager and more than thrilled. Everyone else only saw old-fashioned, not very hip vases. I saw history and grand-dad and my great grand-mother. She died just before I was born – she was a ripe old age – and until recently, there hadn’t been any photos of her, so my vases were like an image of her to me.
Looking at them now I feel so sad that someone else has not loved them as I have. They are a direct link to my past and ancestors and as someone who loves researching family history, they most likely mean far more to me than they really should. I know they are probably not worth anything, but to me they are priceless. Hence the wails of anguish as I unwrapped them.
I still haven’t unpacked everything. The garage is still full and I have no idea where to put it all. I will get rid of a lot of things but I really cannot part with the books and photos and little pieces of my past. It is taking me ages to go through everything. Sitting mulling over every item as I unwrap them seems to suspend time until suddenly I notice how late it is and that I have been here for hours.
I don’t miss having a TV set – I am fully occupied and engrossed – so being alone isn’t a problem for me. I am on a voyage of discovery or should I say re-discovery, and the memories are flooding back as I handle each item. For a few moments I am taken back in time. So vivid are the memories I can almost taste the Snowball, smell the parlour at grand-dad’s which was filled with carved Indian furniture (camphor and wood wafting around the room) and the look of the Indian rugs which were on the walls with tigers and elephants and strange vegetation woven into them.
I am minded of visits to Cornwall and to Daphne Du Maurier’s private beach at Par, with our (then) young son playing in the rock pools there, with the hills and fields around, green and sunlit. The lighthouse guarding the deepest navy blue sea. Where more fields ran down to the cliff edges and her house, Menabilly, loomed high above us.
It is Georgian with sweeping lawns, huge trees bent from the endless winds and with a long drive way to her door and – I imagine – to her writing desk where she has written so many of the those books I love. Musty and damp now, they have been read and re-read so often and will be read again – if I can ever prise the pages apart – memories roused by the feel and look and smell of these books. Priceless discoveries and memories.
I better get on and do some work. All these memories are very draining and I will have to leave unpacking (again) for now and come back to it another day. I keep saying that. I think I am feeling guilty for being such a hoarder and for spending so much time in reverie of the past that I keep putting it off because I know I shall get side-tracked (again) in memory lane when I should be writing.