There is a cupboard in my house and in the cupboard are forty or fifty boxes, bursting at the seams and each clearly labeled. The boxes contain letters, drawings, photographs and other souvenirs. The cupboard is a fading archive of happy memories; if my house burned I would mourn the loss of its contents with unbearable grief.

When I open the box labeled 1966, a chocolate ice cream-stained, lemon-yellow satin dress covers all the other contents. I was two and the all-important flower girl at my godparents’ wedding. There is me, later that same year; mouth open in a silent wail, terrified, on Father Christmas’ lap.

1964 gives me a glimpse at my father’s shaky handwriting (Crossley & Son writing pad) in a letter to my mother; he thanks her for the gift of me: I was born on his twenty-first birthday. I am shy and slightly uncomfortable at the intimate evidence of his love for her. There is a fuzzy kodachrome: Durban beachfront; she is impossibly young, her hair in an upsweep, eyes rimmed in kohl like Bardot. I struggle to reconcile this with a later image of her in an apron, shelling peas.

Nanna’s box still smells of Bien-Etre Eau de Cologne, a hand-embroidered hanky pressed between faded sepia; there is Oupa in his bowling whites, many shots of unknown cricket teams and – falling to the floor – a bill of fare from a cruise ship dated 8 July 1958. (Eight courses! Fish course: haddock with parsley potatoes.)

Is that really me, under the 1998 label? Did I wear that small bikini, baby Bunn on my hip; just ten short years ago? Look at Old Spouse’s lovely, strong hand on my shoulder; I remember so well the graze of his beard on my neck that day.

Recently filled boxes have tiny footprints and finger-painted pictures, Mothers’ Day cards and impossibly ugly jewelry, the value of which is beyond the scope of any underwriting agency.

Cartons of meaningless printed and penned pages, I am terrified that they somehow get damaged or lost; that some unsuspecting helper, one day, assigns these boxes of chronicles to the shredder or the garbage bin.


15 Comments Add yours

  1. niels says:

    I never kept boxes. There is little evidence of the last forty years. I saw photos of me as a 25 year old. I was a fairly handsome lad. Nowhere near as ugly as I remember.

    I don’t know about you, but I just think that evidence that contradict memories are too unsettling.

  2. theonlycin says:

    My evidence validates my memories, there are no contradictions 🙂
    And you’re still kinda handsome, get over yourself. (good grief, saying that makes me feel all Green!)

  3. deepercolors says:

    Boxes? Who me? From 19… well. I keep thinking ‘surely someone wants this stuff’. I don’t think so. :-]

    1. theonlycin says:

      I’m sure someone does!

  4. JustMe says:

    How stunning!!!! You should invest in a fireproof stationary cupboard for those boxes of yours!!!!!

  5. Satyakam says:

    Your post made me nostalgic taking back to the “good” old days when I was not so old [hahaha]. 🙂
    My boxes are in the form of school report cards and group photographs and of late I started stacking books also (seems crazy)…

    1. theonlycin says:

      No, not crazy at all 🙂

  6. I have also had such boxes, mostly stories, poems and notes, and I find them so compelling that I cannot sort them as I would like. Pick one up and get lost in it. I share you wonder at the past, and fear of losing any of it. And yet, over the years, most of it has become lost.

    Cin, your gift in dealing with emotion and memory is wonderful.

    1. theonlycin says:

      I think my fear of losing my memory is why I am such a magpie Rik. Thank you so much!

  7. Jem says:

    Wow! you’re lucky to have so many boxes of memories…and the space to house them as well 😉

  8. nrhatch says:

    Aah, nostalgia . . .

    My favorite: “Recently filled boxes have tiny footprints and finger-painted pictures, Mothers’ Day cards and impossibly ugly jewelry, the value of which is beyond the scope of any underwriting agency.”

    Over the years, I’ve whittled my memorabilia down to two shoeboxes, and an antique ladder shelf filled with photo albums.

    I fear getting lost in the past more than I fear losing my memories.

  9. halfp1nt says:

    Lovely memories Cin. Each time I look through ours, I think that I should really have a good spring clean and clean some it up, and then I pack it all carefully away again.

  10. Tokeloshe says:

    Beautiful as always!

    I also worry, our houses burn down so easily. At least a lot of our photos are online.
    I think the older I get the more valuable they get.

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