Non-fiction Thinking

Thanks for the Memories

 

Nobody really wanted the job of clearing my Dad’s house after he died, it was too sad, but it had to be done.

So many memories, both tangible and intangible, were in the cottage where he had lived for 35 years. It was the house to which my parents retired when my father no longer worked in the capital city, in a rural location which they had chosen together. Before deciding where to move, they took a series of mini breaks around the countryside, to settle on a place which both agreed felt like ‘home’. 15 years ago, when he was widowed, he sprinkled my mother’s ashes in the fields around the house. She became one with the panoramic view which both of them had enjoyed from the cottage windows; it’s where my father wanted us to spread his ashes too, we’ve planned it for their wedding anniversary.

 

Of course Covid-19 had its finger in this pie. It was not the disease that ended my father’s life; blame his 91 year old heart growing weak, his lungs becoming congested and other parts of his body gently shutting down. The pandemic, however, meant that we had time to cremate him, but could not hold his memorial service and celebrate his life. For months the rules of lockdown forbade us from visiting his house, despite needing to search for paperwork that our solicitor wanted. Once the social distancing relaxed we could begin thinning out the clothes and possessions which he and my mother had accumulated over the years.

 

Nobody wanted the job of clearing the house, but if we tackled it together, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt as much, or present such a daunting task. I have siblings to help me and we’re tackling it once a week, spending the whole day there. It will get to a point where it no longer looks like his home. Once the house is sold, that’s the end of an era.

 

We try to make distinctions when sorting:


Items of value which can be auctioned or sold

Useful items which can go to a charity shop

Things to be thrown away/ dumped

 

**A subsection in the first two categories is to consider whether we, or our children, want to keep/use. There are items, large or small, with which family might decorate our homes. Useful items which also remind us of the many times our parents used them.

 

Sometimes I dread going to the house, it is so empty without my father there, in its current state, still how it was when he was alive. It is heartbreaking to disassemble the place until we no longer feel his presence there. But on the flip side of the coin, we often unearth pieces of memorabilia which takes us back to our childhood: 

 

  • The swimming trunks my father wore when he taught us to swim in the cold waters around Middleton, Brightlingsea or Clacton. 
  • The bird book he kept close to hand so that he could identify the swallows, pied wagtails, woodpeckers, curlews and any other birds he saw.
    The little blue alarm clock he used when teaching us how to tell the time.
  • My mother’s Dymo label maker, used for printing names on the spines of A4 ring binders.
  • The Oxford dictionary with black tape mending it which they would both use to assist them comple the crossword each day.

 

Our clearance has unearthed photos in abundance. This wonderful treasure trove tracks my parents as they fell in love, got themselves a puppy, had their first baby, followed swiftly by another. Family holidays are captured in a camper van, on boats, at the beach. Another baby was born, they moved to a new home, obtained a larger dog, had another child. There are pictures of us in balaclavas and silly hats, wearing fancy dress and formal clothes. The images, both monotone and colour, record school days, birthdays and Christmas. 

Many of the pictures are in frames, those that had pride of place in the 70s are in perspex cubes. My mother’s early photo albums hold tiny square pictures mounted on their black pages, with captions she wrote using white ink in her cursive script. The albums with pictures from my teenage years displayed the photos on a sticky board background, with a protective over-layer of cellophane sheets. Now the background no longer sticks, unfortunately allowing the photographs therein to spill from their pages.

My mother undertook a project to depict her family tree informally. She made a montage of her mother’s side of the family in one large frame, her father’s side in a matching frame. This did not use up all the pictures, we’ve found some sepia images of my handsome grandfather – a neat man small enough to buy his suits and shirts from the boy’s section at the tailor. My grandmother was the only girl in a family of 3 boys. Her sweet, beautiful face shines out of every family photograph, she was rather photogenic. As her marriage made her more prosperous, she dressed ever more stylishly, a ‘knack’ which she handed down to my mother.

One carrier bag revealed several studio photographs of a couple poised to dance, dressed up and ready to quickstep or cha cha towards the camera lens. My siblings and I couldn’t recognise this couple, or anyone else in the black and white pictures in the bag. These dance images are so intriguing that I plan to write a story about them – but that’s for another day. For this post I’m sharing images of my grandfather, a man who I unfortunately never knew, and his beautiful wife, my granny.

 

This piece is submitted for #WickedWednesday : Frames. #SnakeDensAtoZ : Memories. For Mrs Fever’s site : #Reminiscences : Musings in Memoir

 

23 thoughts on “Thanks for the Memories

  1. I’m sorry for your loss, Posy. Going through a house packed with memories (and always so much stuff) can be exhausting. I’m glad to know you don’t have to tackle it alone.

    Old photos are such a mystery, aren’t they? I’ve inherited a photo album that once belonged to my great-grandmother. Formal sit-down photographs of boys and girls upon completion of grammar school – most of them age 14/15, which in those days meant you had to start contributing financially to your family; there was no “teenage-hood” in those times! – that are only occasionally labeled with names. No background information, no who’s-related-to-who, just a book full of sepia faces. What, I wonder, were their stories?

    I think it’s a great idea to use one of your antique photos for a story. No doubt there are hundreds that were never told.

    1. Thanks for your support & he great prompt. Old photos are fascinating and yet I feel sad that the people and their connections with us must remain anonymous. Perhaps its a little bonus to feature them in some fiction!

  2. Peace to all the memories This is a tough task and you are lucky to have your 3 siblings to help you out.
    Enjoy the times together and remembering those lovely moments

      1. went thru something similar when Mom left us 10 years ago certainly helped that the 3 of us were on the same page
        hugs

  3. It must be so difficult to have to go through that process. But being able to go through the photos and objects seems like a good way to remember all of the great memories and stories of the past. They are the sorts of things you cherish.

  4. This is a gorgeous piece Posy. I realise it is painful going through the house and contents but it also sounds so therapeutic. I love the pictures that you found and the memories that you have shared 😊

    1. Thank you missy – it feels like laying myself bare, but the see saw of emotions you detected can indeed be therapeutic.

    2. Thanks missy – I’m glad it wasn’t a downer of a post, because yes, finding these memories to treasure is the upside.

  5. Oh Posy, this brought tears to my eyes. We cleared out my mom’s home in a flash, and I wish I had taken more time for it as I know some things have been disposed of that I might wanted to have kept. But, I have tons of photos, papers, books… and I still need to go through them. They are all in boxes on our attic… this is a beautiful piece, and those memories are so precious!
    ~ Marie

    1. Thank you Marie – I wondered if I should put a CW on it (it made me a little teary to write). I think you do what suits you best and what you are able – we have time to take it slower so I am making sure that we do. My father kept everything, mementos go generation back, so it seems respectful to consider everything carefully.

    2. Thanks Marie – I’ll keep the sorting slow and measured, because most of us don’t have room to store many things so must only take what counts. It’s bittersweet for sure.

  6. Heartfelt post Posy and I have often felt for you when u have told me u are off to your dads’ house – I did the same for my Mum and looking back it was hard to be decisive where items were concerned and everything is so raw. Lovely images, cherish them. It must have been so difficult living in a limbo until you could hold a memorial for your Dad. Hugs to u my friend
    xx

    1. Thank you May – yep you have given me great back-up. I know you can relate, the memorial is still ‘waiting’. But yeah am rather proud of what a handsome couple my grandparents were.

  7. I am so glad I read this, Posy. I enjoyed it not for the heartbreak, which is certainly there, but for the love. What wonderful discoveries you are making, the photograph of your grandmother is quite elegant, and I know for a fact you got the ‘knack’ handed down to you too. I love that your parents did the crosswords everyday. And, let’s see some of those b&ws of the dancers, maybe I’ll write a story also, or I’ll ask our friend to. Hope you and your sibs task is over soon. xo

    1. Thank you Elliott, I am glad you felt both sides of the emotions this task is releasing. Thanks for your flattering remarks. Yeah they were demons with the crossword and my Dad was still doing it up until the last couple of weeks of his life – both were big readers which help. Yessiree – I’ll let you see the dancers, that would be a fun thing to share with you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.