These boxes have been sitting in my living room for at least four months. Today my task is to finish sifting through the contents and picking highlights to add to a scrapbook. They contain souvenirs, notes, mementos: train tickets, postcards, beer mats, photographs (not many), leaflets, race numbers, letters and so on. I don’t have room to store everything I collect, but I want to preserve some things.
This is a hard task. Not because I find throwing things away difficult. That’s not normally a problem. My test is, ‘if I was fleeing in the middle of the night, would I carry this?’ The idea behind the scrapbook is to have just the one thing to take should a midnight fleeing take place. I’m not planning it, by the way, but I did something fairly similar once, so it always seems possible I might have to do it again.
The difficulty is because I know I have no-one to hand this on to. When I’m old and losing my memory, who will be there to remind me of these times? There are no children to entertain with stories of things past. No extended family with an interest in others’ lives.
My own childhood memories are precariously held. My brother has received ECT treatment over a number of years and he no longer remembers simple things about our past together, so there’s no-one to reinforce what I remember.
Thinking about this – and I know it veers into self-pity – is something that makes me feel lonely. However, the boxes won’t go away by themselves, and it’s not something I can outsource to someone else. So, onwards and upwards: tea in pot, pritt stick in hand, R4 playing – time to get on with it.