Nothing lasts forever.
But God knows, Mother and Father had tried to preserve those childhood memories. Scrap books, photo albums, shoe boxes stuffed with old birthday cards. In the last few years, Carol had begun to feel that the actual physical presence of all the stuff was giving the elderly couple more comfort than her own infrequent, irritable visits.
When the time came to clear the house, it was more than just removals work. It meant confronting, reliving, every blasted relic of her awkward childhood that she’d ever forgotten or tried to forget. Sometimes there was a strange comfort in the task. More than once, she would find herself thinking ‘I wonder whatever happened to …’ only to find the very item lurking in the back of a drawer some hours later. At such times, she could almost feel her parents’ presence, as if they were deliberately leaving clues for her to find. “Thank you Mother, I was just looking for that” she would say out loud. But the creaking pipes of the empty house were the only response.
At other times the sheer volume of what her parents had amassed during their 80 years overwhelmed her. She could spend hours kneeling in front of an open cupboard, her feet turning numb, utterly incapable of deciding what to do with the contents. The unfathomable reasons why her parents had kept particular items began to torment her. What if they were an important part of her family history? She clung to broken dolls, tinged with the faded smell of cigarette smoke and her mother’s Chanel No.5, their plastic limbs discoloured and cracked with age. Sometimes, having ruthlessly dispatched something to the charity shop bin-bag, she would wake up in the small hours gripped with anxiety, and creep through the silent house to transfer it to the ‘stuff to keep’ box.
Nothing lasts forever, she told herself.
But how she wished some things could.