Tag Archives: dad

The Writing Case

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Going through Mum and Dads belongings is a mixture of treasure trove, Cash in the Attic and a lesson in the joys od minimalism. I am tending more and more towards the latter. Two thoughts return again and again; that my boys should not have to go through this endless sifting and sorting and weight of responsibility and that we never really own anything, just pass it on to another generation. The latter remark was made by the nice man from the auctioneer’s. I thought it was pretty profound, and realised that a lifetime of presiding over auctions of other people’s belongings probably makes you into a philosopher.

I am keeping as little as possible. This has been a process over many months so there has been time for me to learn detachment from belongings or from feeling I ‘should’ keep things. So many things hold memories, but really the memories are not in the things. Photos are special. Sadly many of the really old ones have no labels so I am lost as to who these babies and stiff posing groups might be.

Does anyone else remember the era of slides? From the 60’s to the 80’s Mum took hundreds of pictures onto slides. Each holiday was followed by an excruciating evening ‘slide-show’ with friends. Nibbles like Ritz crackers with cream cheese were served as Dad took us through each slide with anecdotes and explanations. Usually these evenings were with best friends Mary and John and their son Iain and I would grimace and shuffle until allowed to escape to play table tennis. Monopoly or to watch TV. This week I have weeded out boxes by the dozen to try to save the gems but not hang on to every scenic view.

I found these two gems in a box with some other leather cases to match. One is a writing case with a special place for telegrams ( a forgotten missive in the days of email, fax and mobile phones). The other is the most beautiful sewing kit. Green leather case with a soft velvet lining with coloured silks still inside next to the pristine needles. Tiny tools with mother-of-pearl handles. I am keeping Mum’s writing desk, given to her on her 21st birthday in 1945 by my Granda. I think these will live in there to remind me of a time when writing was with pen and ink and sewing was an art all ladies learnt. I wont be that lady but I will use the desk and write.

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Sifting through a Lifetime

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Photos from childhood and beyond. Great-grandparents young and wide-eyed, dressed to impress with their proper looking parents. Baptism, marriage and death certificates. Love letters and valentines, plans for a marriage and choosing the carpet for their first house. The bill from a hotel in Bournemouth for seven nights as a honeymoon in 1954. Letters hoping for a pregnancy, disappointment, then the arrival of a baby girl, first to visit then to be adopted. Stories of school days, an old school tie and report cards. Tiny meticulous writing and immaculate drawings and plans as Dad studied and worked to get himself qualified as a Surveyor. Mum’s notes from her first teaching job and her passion for education which has stayed all her life. Cards and pictures drawn by the grandchildren, notes in diaries of births and birthdays.    

The photos up the staircase are a family history in themselves, back further than I remember. Stray photos in albums and boxes stir half-remembered conversations and the wish I’d made sure they were all labelled some years ago. I know I am the last person who will know who some of these people are, it feels like quite a responsibility that they should be named and recognised somehow. So much connection, such a lot of love.

Prayer books and children’s stories, family Bibles and tales of travel in foreign lands. Maps and guidebooks galore, the history of a wandering soul with a love for adventure and a taste for the great outdoors. Every box, bag and envelope contains treasures amidst the paper collection of two inveterate hoarders. They make me smile, sigh and blink back the tears and ache to ask the questions for which there will be no answers anymore. Today two of the boys helped with clearing and packing. We found a tiny pair of slippers wrapped in newspaper with a note attached ‘Stephen’s first shoes”, their Grandpa born 1922. One suggested we make a scrapbook of family history and memories so none of this gets lost. I like that idea. I think Mum and Dad would too.