I’ve been mulling the idea of a blog for a few weeks. I find writing exceedingly cathartic and absorbing, I also recognize the need for some vague structure on these free-flowing days. But most of all I am creating a time capsule for my dotage, I love finding lost treasures, reminiscing over an old photo and revisiting important places from my past. I recently managed to get a tour of the house I grew up in which my parents had left about 30 years ago. It was a truly magical 15 minutes of re-exploration, the pinnacle perhaps the moment I saw the house still had our old hall carpet (mum always said it was a good investment) and wall lights. Walking slowly through the house I was trying to take everything in, looking for the familiar, ignoring the new, confused by the sense of smallness (walking carefully on the stairs thinking have my feet really grown since my mid 20s?). Feeling indebted to the current house owner for indulging me I managed to feign an interest in the way he had converted the box room into an en-suite, ‘yes’ this was an improvement but totally ‘meh’ to me. Somehow, I resisted the voice at the back of my head encouraging me to say ‘you know what could you just pop out for half an hour and let me explore on my own’. I could not however contain the sea of emotions that rose within me as I entered the garden …. I just about managed to keep my voice steady, but I still can’t get over the fact they’d removed the willow tree.
Three months prior, whilst packing up to move out of my house, I spent a lot of time reading old diaries, reminiscing over old photos and memorabilia, sending photos of pictures, items, diary extracts to those ‘involved’ with the memory, and then wondering why my packing was taking so long.
The highlight of it all was going through my ‘letters bag’. This was an old black and white school P.E bag, handmade by mum, which I had used to store letters over the years. I knew the bag was home to the 100 plus love letters between myself and my ex-husband, many penned when he did his year abroad during Uni, and before mobile phones existed. When we’d divorced ten plus years ago, I had briefly wondered whether to chuck these but decided not. They do not upset me and why would I want to lose a memory of a very happy part of my life. I started to skim through these, I did not have the time, energy or that much inclination to read them all, but suddenly I realized there was much more to this bag than I had ever imagined. Buried amongst the mass of airmails covered in kisses, sharing lover’s jokes and lingo I stumbled across another batch of letters, letters from others, letters I was unaware existed.
As I pulled the first white envelope from the bag, I shallowed hard as I recognized my mum’s handwriting. I had stumbled across a cache of letters from my mum to me in the first year of Uni. I was overcome with emotion, which I can feel rising again now. I suddenly had a way to connect with my mum once more. My wonderful mum whom I’d lost 8 years ago, suddenly felt unbelievably alive again. I had never imagined such a bittersweet surprise. The letters moaned about my dad and my auntie, told me about meals, and washing and reminded me of the realities of those last few years at home, and made me realise just how much my mum missed me when I went to Uni. I was the youngest of four and the last to leave the family home. At that time my parents had a less than perfect marriage and I was mum’s sanity and escapism. And I had left her and gone to Uni, and our contact was now only a weekly call and the occasional letter. How I wish I’d written more; wish I’d made more of an effort. It’s a cliché, but such is the cycle of life, and now when I wish I had ‘more contact / time’ whatever it is from my grown-up kids I take myself back to when I was their age and ask myself ‘how much time did I want to spend with my parents’?