Thursday, 24 April 2008

Memories are made of this

The last few days have been spent clearing my mother's small house. My sister and I have spent a long time going through everything, deciding what we should keep and what has to go, putting everything in boxes and then talking most of it out again as we realised it was impossible to hang on to it all.

The large items, desks and tables and bookcases, weren't too much of a problem. We have our own, with our own memories, and so they are going off to auction and will no doubt be sold to someone who appreciates them.

The problem lies with the bits and pieces. One of the men who came to finish off the clearance apologised for seeming insensitive. It's much, much harder to part with all the tiny things that hold memories but mean nothing whatever to anyone else.

mother as child

That's not a torn photo, that's my mother, the child who was never wanted, the mistake.

father playing rugby

My father was ridiculously proud of that crumpled newspaper cutting and told us endlessly about the day he took down O'Sullivan Roach, even though his two daughters barely appreciated the finer points of rugby.

Christmas card

That's not any old Christmas card, it's the one my father sent to my mother after the war ended and while he was still serving in Italy. After it arrived she set out to join him there, the first civilian allowed into Italy at that time.

little girl in summer dress

It may look like an old duster or a rag, but that was once my "posh frock" which I was allowed to wear on special occasions, sent all the way from grandparents in Ireland to a remote area in Africa.

girl eating

That worn and cracked bowl was once my sister's favourite, and without it she refused to eat (even though she always managed to look like a little angel).


The ribbon with a rusty pin was once a badge I wore proudly for being top of the class. I had to learn how to curtsy to receive it, much to the amusement of all. That was the school where we were forced to eat up everything, and that almost gave me an eating disorder. It was also the school where I had to endure a reading class consisting entirely of listening to one poor child repeating "wisp" over and over until the teacher was satisfied with her pronunciation. Hmm, a lot of memories stored in one small piece of fabric.

airmail letter

That almost illegible letter on the finest of airmail paper was written to me on my eighth birthday by the minister of the local church. Almost twenty years and many thousands of miles later, he was to conduct my wedding service. We didn't live in his parish then, and had to have a special licence. After all these many years since then, I'm still not convinced it was legal.

How do you preserve all these memories? Will our own children have the same problems letting go?


  1. How touching. We all have so many mementos and I assume our children will keep those that have some memory for them. Other things I hope go on to be loved by someone new.

  2. Oooh, been there, done that, with my sister and my brother too. It breaks your heart.

    Every so often I have a clear-out so nobody will have to do much of that for me.

    Apart from the books, of course. Nah, they mean a lot to me but not to anyone else.

    And the large number of photograph albums. I keep meaning to sort them out..........

  3. It sounds like a very hard task...haven't been there yet (and hope not to be in a long time) and I have started doing my own just in case...And I know it's easy to get rid of the extra paper but the tiny, meaningful's very hard.

  4. What a difficult task and not one I am looking forward to having to do. My Mother's house is full of old junk that she refuses to throw away since "if it's old, it might be valuable or of use to somebody" Almost all of it will go in a skip as it is not worth sending to auction. But it wall all have to be gone through just to make sure that some cherished photo (say of my Dad) is squirreled away in an envelope or a box.

    As for my own old junk, I'm trying to get rid of it now so the children won't have the problem.

  5. Correction: 'will' for 'wall' and 'not' in front of 'squirreled' - Sorry - fingers running ahead of brain.

  6. Happy memories are always worth keeping... hold on to them. Happy blogging.

  7. We had to do this when my grandma passed away and it was painful to say the least. My mum wanted to throw out all the photos and I nearly had a fit! I have them all in a box and one day I'm gonna scrapbook them.

    I have some letters too that my great grandfather wrote during the first world war and they are still such perfect condition. I also have loads of old postcards.

  8. what a lot of memories... sometimes we wish we can keep them all, but we couldn't.

  9. I love to see all these Memories.
    I'm almost sure you would regret throwing them away.

    I lost quite a few things over time, but I keep whatever I can.
    I have all my Dad's old pictures and my Grandmoms.
    My Mom lately bitched about it but hey, she's always quick in throwing things away, so I stayed on the safe side.

  10. A wonderful post, i enjoyed the memories. I've been through similar when it comes to letting go. Preserving the memory of items by taking photos is a wonderful way to 'compress' the history while the physical objects get discarded.

    You'd be surprised by how a simple photo of an 'angel' eating something out of her special bowl from waaaaay back could have meaning to other mothers in the present-day who face children that refuse to eat their food ;)

    Thanks for sharing.

  11. Having just read through this list it brought back all the memories of having to do just the same when My mother passed away. Heartbreaking. I have since learned that all those memories remain in our heart, always.

  12. Thanks for sharing. Those photos and memories are wonderful.

    Best to you and your family as you go the hard time of losing a loved one.


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