So my parents have been clearing out the loft, and last weekend brought over a pile of items they no longer have space for (I’ve yet to connect the fact that they need space with my wedding – apparently my forthcoming nuptials are the reason for the clear out. Is my mum buying a house-sized hat?).
For the last week a cat basket, old travel bags and a blanket from the holiday when my parents put me on the shelf have been sitting at the bottom of the stairs, waiting for inspiration to strike about what to do with them. Oh, and then the time to actually do it, rather than think about it or wait for the Other Half to get fed up and move them. But galvanized by the fact we have guests for dinner tonight, this morning we looked through the pile.
Isn’t it amazing how possessions can take you back, instantly, to a moment which seems frozen in time?
I bought the cat basket when I first picked up my cat, Saskia, from the rescue centre. She was a small kitten, a bundle of nerves and fur, who preferred to sleep on me rather than in the basket. If I recall correctly, it was mainly used for stashing her favourite pieces of paper and my bras, which she used to fish out of drawers and drag around with her. Fortunately her days of frantic underwear thievery came to an end; although paper is still a slight obsession, she moved onto collecting leaves and twigs from lingerie. A slight step down, but much less expensive as a hobby from my point of view.
Unfolding my Mickey blanket released a cloud of memories of the summer we went to California. My father was working in Oregon at the time; we caught the train down to San Francisco, drove down the coast to Monterey, across to Yosemite and up to Napa in an overly long RV. Dad had booked a 21 footer, we arrived and they only had a 28 foot long one left. Cue much hilarity for us, headaches for Dad as the driver of this monstrous beast, and embarrassment for Mum as she tried to Britishly apologise to irate drivers and appease annoyed campsite owners. For some reason rather than convert the bed in the living room of an evening, my parents decided to put me ‘on the shelf’ over the drivers cab. Boy, it was cold! We bought the blanket, at an outrageous price, from some tourist store up in the gold rush mountains. Mickey came with me to university, to London and onwards – a real comfort blanket in every sense of the word, and he bears the scars of it, bravely.
And bears? There are no bears in this post. There is a rather battered small Peter Rabbit from the Lake District from the Holiday Where My Father Decided I Should Learn I Can’t Have Everything. I saw it, I loved it, my mother suggested they buy it with my birthday money – my father said NO. I screamed, apparently. For 2 hours. My mother begged, but he was implacable and refused to turn around. Until the screaming turned to gentle sobbing, at which point he caved in. I was 18 months old at the time and I’m not sure the lesson really sunk in, although it has turned into family lore. Peter stayed with me until my first year at university, at which point my brother pinched him claiming he ‘belonged’ at home, with Monkey. (Monkey and Peter were both taken to university by him, where I have it on good account they hosted some awesome parties, founded the Whiskey Society, ate a lot of dodgy curry and learnt about Life). Monkey and Peter have clearly decided to stick together in this cruel world, as Monkey had his hand up Peter’s jacket sleeve. Holding on tightly to his friend, I like to think.
And now I need to stop looking through a pile of my old things, and actually do something with them. Or our guests will be dining with an audience of soft toys and really, I think I’m too old to get away with that – and hopefully too young to be considered eccentric enough for that not to raise an eyebrow. Although I’m sure they have teddy bears at home as well. Maybe I’ll use that as an opener to a deep and meaningful conversation? Or perhaps I’ll just phone Mum to find out how big her hat is going to be.