Leaving Things Behind

Now that I have returned to Linz from Calafou, where the collective agreed to let me stay and even gave me a very generous warm welcome, it’s time to pack, because I will be returning to Calafou to stay in just over a week.

It is in many ways a great relief to know I don’t have to pack up everything, only the things I really want or need, because I can leave Patrick to deal with the rest. Yet as I go through the flat considering what to take, everything I touch is charged with memories, and sometimes it feels hard to let go.

When I was a child, one of the things I loved about visiting the Shanahans was that their house was full of such Nice Things. They had elegant wine glasses, real china, linen tablecloths, pretty glass objects, beautiful original paintings. That was quite different from the sturdy plastic tableware we had, because it was more practical in a household with small children – in addition to being modern and popular in the sixties – or posters stuck on the wall with tape and tacks. I dreamed that one day, when I was grown up, I would have Nice Things too. Even in my most austere ascetic phase (because that was the form my teenage rebellion took), Nice Things always remained my greatest “temptation”. Having Nice Things still feels like an achievement to me to this day, but there are so many things in this household now that I seriously will not need in Calafou. But will they mean anything to Patrick when he starts “de-museumizing” the flat? The set of delicate English tea cups that Mr. and Mrs. Sanderson gave us as a wedding present have always only been used on special occasions. Will they remain special? The set of wine glasses that my mother-in-law etched for us: there are only three left now, so I put them carefully away in the back of the cupboard. Will there be any left the next time I come back to Linz? The four plates I use every day now look a bit old and some of them are a bit chipped, but once upon a time they were elegant and modern, and it gave me great satisfaction when I was able to buy them with my first salary in Innsbruck. Will they mean anything to anyone else, or will they just look like old plates left over from the eighties?

I need to get a kettle for the gas cooker in Calafou, so there is no point in taking the electric kettle I have in Linz. As I pushed it aside, though, I remembered when Amy went out and bought it for me when she was visiting in Linz. Peter and I had changed the plug on our electric kettle from England ourselves, and Amy was appalled by how hazardous it looked, so she went out specifically to buy me a shiny new, non-hazardous kettle. But these are only my memories attached to the electric kettle. Without my memories it is simply a very sturdy, perfectly ordinary electric kettle.

A kettle covered with memories.

This is why I’m stuck. This is why it will do me good to leave and focus solely on what I am doing in the here and now. I think I have been living too long alone with too many memories. They stick to everything that surrounds me. Amy, Peter, my father, my sons’ childhood, my own past in different places … But it is not the Nice Things that matter, and other things can also be nice, handmade things, makeshift things, experimental things. And I hope these other things can help me make room in my heart for new memories.

I am grateful to Patrick for taking over this project, but I’m afraid he has a lot of work ahead of him.

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2 Antworten zu Leaving Things Behind

  1. Terrry sagt:

    No kidding! The dishes, the bedclothes, the furniture, the photos and paintings – all of them – are „only things“, as my Dad once said. When he died, and my Mom had to leave the house she had lived in for over 30 years, she felt that she had to get rid of just about everything. Many, many „nice things“ went, too, from the various places they had lived (Japan, Guam, Greece…). All gone. They were, after all, „only things“.
    You are very brave. It is not really easy to „live in the here and now“, the older we get, with all of our memories and longings. I wish you all the best on your new adventure.

  2. Aileen sagt:

    Thank you, Terry! Yes, you know the pain too of packing up, closing down, letting go after losing a loved one. I expected this to be different, and in many ways it is – but all the memories again …
    But as my dear sister-in-law said about setting off on her own adventure: if not now, when? It is a splendid opportunity that I don’t want to miss.

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