Wednesday, 6 April 2016

The Tidying Away of Things

Where to start with the tidying away of things? There are still piles of mainly clothes to be sorted through of people who have moved on or grown too lanky. A selection of my baby clothes from the seventies in exotic materials such as bri-nylon, either in faded whites or creams or in startling floral patterns, purple and blue. These were handed on to my daughter, and now have been washed and ironed and folded in a particular way and secreted in a box. But it’s not conclusive, though it’s meant to be a neat tying up of ends, and during the act I find myself wondering if a granddaughter of mine, God willing, will wear them, and will they seem ridiculously old-fashioned by then?

And there’s a box of my grandpa’s and dad’s ties in my wardrobe because I don’t know what to do with them. I have neatly coiled them and put them in a Christmas cake tin, because that is what seems appropriate and dignified – don’t ask me why.

I’m trying to collect my mother’s handwritten notes hidden about the house and in the pages of books but it’s like trying to capture darting butterflies in an unwieldy net. A page fell out of a map the other day: ‘There’s a dog sanctuary at STOWMARKET can can [sic] see if they advertise?’, and my handwritten directions on the back, bearing right and bearing left all over Suffolk.  It is now on display on my chest of drawers, propped up over a baby picture of my son. There is no logic to these gestures, other than they spark a small chemical reaction inside the heart – you believe you are dignifying the memory of a loved one and you feel better and your step is a little lighter, I suppose.

A ceremony and a gathering summarise the life of a bright soul and enable us in part to make sense of what we believe to be too short a time here.  There was a concentration of thought and emotion and a reverent hush before the service, except in the row behind me where an animated pair pointed out so-and-so and someone else, and murmured of the new ‘lady vicar’. It brought a smile to my face. We are all the same – curious and gossipy but capable of comfort and empathy for those who have lost. Afterwards the congregation piled out of the church and lined up outside, and slyly looked to see whether that couple was still going strong and if someone had aged well, and whether that old flame lived up to the memories.

And so I continue with my sorting – which I know will never end – and the processing of the memories and the layers of joy, questioning and healing that have slipped in between the tissue paper.