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