Warning: This is a very nostalgic post with plenty of pictures.
Over the past two months I have been packing up close to 34 years of life. I have been working my way through boxes of items my mother has kept since I was born and items I myself have kept since the sentimentality bug bit me as a teenager. In a previous blog I wrote about the burden of clutter. I wrote about wanting to move toward a more minimalist lifestyle. I have read a great deal about why and how to simplify ones life and now the universe is somewhat forcing me to very quickly rid myself of said burdens. Perhaps deciding to move to the other side of the world has more benefits than initially expected.
Moving is stressful no matter how much planning goes in to it. Also we are planning to move with as little as possible save the clothes we love, the truly, joyful sentimental items I have selected, my late husband’s journals, my own journals, as few books as possible (this was really hard) and my favourite reading chair. What remains though is getting rid of everything, and I mean everything else. It has been a very busy few months. Many a day I opened my home for my friends to literally come and shop my stuff in my house. I am grateful to everyone who came and found something for themselves. The items that were not sold in my home were sold online. Not too much of a fan of having a stranger come in to my home to pick things up but it needed to be done. Many items were donated as well to some wonderful causes that many of my friends work in or support. Finally I know a guy who can auction off anything. If you are in Pretoria or Johannesburg and need to find this guy let me know.
It has been a very difficult few months emotionally as well. Not only am I packing up my entire life but I am also embarking on this all as a widowed mom. I have had to work through all of his stuff as well. Thanks to a book by Marie Kondo, which I have applied to most of my packing, I have also made the decision to only keep items of my late husband that bring me joy not sorrow. I have put together a beautiful memory box of his things that I will keep in a vintage suitcase for myself. I have also made a box for NM, my daughter, of her dad’s things from when he was a child until he became a father. I also have a Me box of things I will keep from my past to give to NM one day, hopefully in the very distant future. Finally there is another vintage suitcase (bought on one of our many classic car roadtrips) that contains items of my journey until now as well as items of NM that make up our family box. I will keep adding to it for as long as I can.
In working through all this boxes and cupboards I have been transported back to my past as well. I have gone through photo albums, baby clothes, children’s drawings, band posters, VHS tapes, CDs, letters from all my school friends (I was blessed to go through most of my schooling before cellphones became mainstream) that we used to pass to one another during or between classes, doodles about boys I liked, school books, school projects, a skateboard deck signed by Tony Hawk (totally keeping that one and yes, I used to skate), band shirts, aeroplane stubs, concert tickets, a decade worth of shoes from my twenties, my pinball table counter from my first business and so much more.
It honestly all felt like watching my life flash before my eyes in slow motion throughout the weeks it took to sort through all these items. I was transported back to playing in the house my father built on the farm where my mom had these really cheesy posters hanging of me when I was a baby.
I actually remember the day my Dad randomly took me into a photo studio to take some photos and I had messy hair and plastic shoes. I then jumped forward and remembered drawing a fish eagle in Standard 1 as it was my dad’s favourite bird.
Next I was passing notes to my friend Phia about this boy I had a crush on that went to another school (he had to as I was in an all girls school). I remember living in Fook Island where I spent many years wondering around this amazing imaginative world in my back yard. Want to know more about Fook Island, it has to do with Walter Battiss.
Suddenly I remembered that I was never really very good at art or painting or drawing although sometimes I got lucky. I loved to sew and embroider and found many a dress I had made. I was actually very good at sewing. I actually still have a coat I made in one day. It’s really hard for me to part with it as I worked so hard on it.
Then I became all punk rock and somehow managed to keep my Rancid poster all these years. The punk fests at Thrashers were always my favourite and the local bands playing at Nile Crocodile in Lynnwood where my wonderful mother used to drop me off, and cringe I am certain, before picking me up again. I remember attempting to skate very often and hurting myself quite a lot.
Oh goodness and then my brownie uniform popped up and I went right back to being 8 years old. Funny story about that uniform but I will save that for another self indulgent post.
And then I had to work through and part with my shoes. Anyone who worked with me in my twenties will know all about my shoe collection. I was once bet that I couldn’t wear a different pair of shoes everyday for a month. I did it for two months. Now I only have five pairs of shoes. Ok and two pairs of sandles. Ok fine and two pairs of boots, three if you count my cowboy boots that I bought in Spain on my honeymoon.
I have worked through three decades of life in two months. However I have still not been able to work through my late husband’s box. I kept so many sentimental items throughout our relationship. I have been reminded of many a good memory but I haven’t worked up the courage to go deeper into all the letters he wrote to me and very sentimental items that to anyone else may look like rubbish but to me represent the best times of my life being loved by a man so completely and unconditionally. I am truly grateful for the nine years that I did get with him. They were incredible.
I could write a book about all our adventures and about being loved more than I ever thought anyone could be loved. Maybe I should. I could write about our holiday in New York or our classic car roadtrips to random destinations across South Africa. I could write about Mr Fisher who travelled with us in the Mustang all the way from Nieu Bethesda on New Years 2014. Spoiler alert he is a paper lantern made by a child that we never actually met.
Through this whole experience of decluttering I can honestly say I have lived a good life. There were many ups and downs but mostly ups. Three absolutely terrible downs that I will carry the pain of throughout my life. Yet so many ups and joy and love that I can truly say I am blessed, except for losing three of the most amazing men I have yet known. First my father, when I was twelve years old, who was an amazing dad. Then my father in law, in 2014 who had a voice that channeled the Greek myths themselves and who I could hear stories from for hours. And then I lost my husband, the man who loved me so that I felt my heart expand each and every moment we were together. The man whose love has carried me through the pain of losing him. Thinking back on my life and my stories I cannot wait to tell NM all about them. I want to tell her all about my journey. I have so much to say. I could go on and on right here. All of this is inspiring me to write it down. God bless I can tell NM all the stories myself but I believe I should write down as much as I can.
I watched something recently wherein a character said that a story told is a life lived. So gone are most of these items that have reminded me of my story. Instead I will write the memories so that the story comes to mean something instead of a box full of junk. No one knows what sentiment clings to each and every paper stub or stone or shell in my trunk of things except me. People will only know if I choose to write the stories behind these things. One day when I die I do not want people to look through boxes of my things and wonder why I kept such random stuff. I would much rather have people read my stories than throw out my memories in boxes of ticket stubs and random tins. So perhaps in this long winded blog post I am trying to get to a point where I commit to perhaps writing a memoir. Who knows. Maybe I will give it a try.
P.S. Since 1997 I have kept diaries almost every year where I wrote a summary of what I did each day. I have been trying to keep it up. So technically I could tell you what I did on 22 March in 1999. Or perhaps 6 January 2007. Honestly if you take anything from this long post perhaps it’s something you should try. Just a simple diary where you write something as simple as ‘Watched Netflix. Jurassic World sucks.’ And then you can think back to 26 June 1993 when you watched Jurassic Park at a movie theatre (which was epic) and closed your eyes through the T-Rex scene and then went on to watch it at least ten times, on VHS of course, before your sixteenth birthday because it is that awesome.
Only issue though is that now I have 21 diaries I need to take to Canada with me. Seriously this is one awesome habit I highly recommend. I think I should put them all together and take a photo to post here. Just a warning, the 1998 one has a picture of Leonard DiCaprio on it.