Lauren finds it hard to dispose of childhood memories
| Lauren knelt on the lounge room carpet surrounded by dozens of boxes, some half packed, others taped shut and labelled. Exhausted from all the sorting, she said, “I hate packing, George, who knew we had so much stuff?”
“Thirty years worth, love,” her husband replied, “I’ll miss the old place.”
It’s not that she hadn’t been on board when they decided to downsize, because the new place would be so much easier to keep clean than their big sprawling place. Also, she was finding their large garden too much, she just needed enough space to grow her favourite plants, without having to rake up endless leaves. No, what was making her unsettled were the memories. They caused her to stop and reminisce as each drawer and cupboard revealed some photo or momento. Everyone a reminder of their family life here in the old house.
The children had all been born there, and although they were now living independently, they still loved to return for weekends, family birthdays and Christmas.
She and George had been newlyweds when they bought the house. It had been much too big for them then, but they’d intended to fill it with children, although after Stella, their fourth child, it had been a mutual decision she’d be the last.
The over fifty-five retirement village was lovely, with everything they’d need when George eventually retired. It boasted a swimming pool, bowling green and community meeting place, Lauren was sure she’d make friends there, it was simply she felt so sad about leaving the house with all its memories.
When George’s mother died, it was left it to Lauren to clear out her cupboards and belongings. “What do you want me to do with all these old photos George?” She’d asked him.
“There’s no one I recognise, what’s the point in keeping them?” He’d handed back the shoe box containing the pictures.
Lauren felt bad about disposing of his mum’s things, they didn’t belong to her, but no one wanted them. She’d asked around Gladys’ friends, and given away a few ornaments, but she hadn’t known what to do with the boxes of photo albums. These had meant a lot to her mother-in-law, but to Lauren and George they were simply pictures of strangers. Lauren felt so guilty when she threw most in the garbage bin, but had no choice.
It had been Gladys’ death that had been the catalyst for their move.
“This is what our kids will have to do when we die, George.” Lauren complained as she cleaned out cupboards full of stuff that his mum had probably not looked at, or used for years.
“Well, I won’t let it happen, I will clear out all our junk, because when we move we’ll have no room to store things we don’t use.
So that was the reason Lauren was going through all the stuff stored in the large hallway cupboards.The only thing was, could she bear to throw anything away?
She pulled out four cardboard boxes each bearing the name of one of her children. Michael’s contained his first drawings from Kindy, hand drawn cards with hearts and kisses, saying ‘Love you mummy’. There were school reports, certificates of merit and even his first lost baby tooth wrapped in tissue paper.
Jimmy’s box held similar drawings and pictures from when he could first make a scribble on the paper, along with ‘Ruggy’ and ‘Little Ted’, without either of those things sleep had been out of the question. Lauren smiled, holding the little battered bear up to her nose and breathing in the scent.
From the back of the cupboard, she dragged out a box of old sporting trophies, the metal now faded and speckled. Tom had been such an all rounder, there were trophies for cricket, swimming, tennis and little athletics. What could she do with them though? They had no room at the new house. She would ask him, and the others, to come and get their stuff, she decided.
Lauren went through all the treasures one by one, memories flooding back, each drawing and toy making her think about a time, so long ago, and yet still so vivid in her mind.
Looking through the box marked ‘Stella’ made Lauren smile. How she’d loved having a daughter after her three boys. Her box contained all Stella’s glass animals carefully wrapped, and her collection of stuffed toys, some of which had slept with her on her bed until she’d left home to go to university.
Lauren swept out the now empty cupboard, and she deposited all the boxes in the garage. Her children could take care of their own memories now.
“How’s the move going Mum?” Michael her oldest asked when he called her that night. “Do you and dad need a hand to pack, I can come around on Saturday after footy?”
“That would be great Mikey, then you can take all your stuff I’ve looked after for twenty-nine years.”
His mum told him what was in his box, sure he’d be keen to come and get it. His reaction surprised her, when he laughed. “You surely haven’t kept all that rubbish have you. What on earth for?”
“It’s your childhood Michael.”
“No mum, I don’t want it, you keep it, you know you saved it for yourself, anyway.”
Later that night as Lauren sat alone amongst the chaos which was once her home, she reflected on her son’s words, and she asked herself why she’d really saved all those childhood drawings, baby teeth and trophies, and who needs the mementos of childhood, the child or the parent?
When the removal men came the next day those four boxes made the journey to their new home at the retirement village.