The memory box

Folding the letter she gently smoothed the sheet of paper under her fingers feeling beneath them dryness of age that had affected it. Eyes too poor to read it now, nevertheless she knew every word by heart having devoured it so often over the years, now carefully stored with so many others and only now seeing light of day.

HARRY!

Closing her eyes his face flashed into her mind, hazy now as she struggled after so long to keep his features sharp and clear, she was losing him to time she knew that and the thought made her smile sadly. So long ago yet brief moments of clarity would invade her thoughts, his smile cutting through the fog and making it seem like only yesterday and then he was gone again leaving her with only these tangible memories. 

Sighing softly she replaced the pages into the large carved wooden box, fingers brushing a small packet as she did so drawing it slowly towards her before cupping it gently in her wrinkled palms and clasping it to her chest.  ‘Not long my love’ she thought to herself ‘Soon, it shall be soon’

Leaving the packet unopened she returned it quickly to the box, thrusting it inside as guilt burned and she slightly afraid of being discovered although she knew she would not be, nobody came any more. A splash of bright colour caught her eye and she reached towards a garish painted picture of a child’s hand with crude scrawl underneath depicting the artist’s name.

Ella.

Another smile, eyes warming briefly before the light quickly faded, no Ella was long gone and this just yet another memory of things come and gone in her many years of being. Sadness less sharp as each year went by panged momentarily before she dismissed it and returned the picture to lie back along its fellow inhabitants of the cluttered old box. 

Her worn gaze swept over the small grizzled teddy bear and the beribboned letters, oh she had been so popular in her day with her many suitors all begging for a smile, a glance, some sign of recognition from her but almost from the first she had only had eyes for him. Sweeping an errant lock of hair from her forehead she leaned further over the box disturbing the contents in her hunt for the one thing she sought. She needed to find it, to bring him close again before her failing mind refused to remember what she was looking for and left her in that absent place where nothing mattered any more. 

There! There it was.  Her heart leapt as she found the one thing she wanted and fingers rapidly cleared the dust from the front of the small framed picture. Lovingly she gazed at the sun bleached photograph, yellow with age, showing a young couple smiling shyly at each other.He resplendent in some bygone uniform showing duty to his country and she delicately pretty in florals and lace, bonnet trailing from fingers gently clasped between his.

Harry.

Even as she gazed the fog came and eyes clouded over, picture already forgotten falling into her lap and memories of him vanishing like mist in the sun. In the shadows of the room a figure waited, brass buttons shining on a uniform of old, boyish face echoing the love reflected earlier on hers. He could wait, he’d waited such a long time that a little longer would not hurt. 

‘Soon my love’ he smiled ‘ i shall see you soon’ 

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Happy Birthday to You

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So another birthday comes along. Another year has gone on its merry way, another ring has been added to the tree of my life.

I have to confess i do not much like birthdays, that is to say i love to celebrate other peoples but i am far from having any fond feelings for my own. Too many unpleasant memories are barely tempered by slightly more enjoyable ones of late. Alas the negative wins out by sheer number for want of any other reason.

As perhaps is typical i mourned the loss of another year and then began to ponder my place in life in relevance to my remaining years. At first, of course,  it was easily done to follow the thought paths leading to wondering how many years i may have left and whether i will achieve the many things i would like to within my lifetime. Where will i be ten years from now? What will i be? Who will i love?

Strangely unbidden a quote popped into my head that much disturbed my train of thought and i wondered perhaps if we are so guilty of forever wanting more that we forget to live and enjoy the life we actually have.

 “First give time to your love, family and friends. Who will remember your presentations, meetings, degrees and overtime after you died?”

I have no idea why that thought popped in my head and i sat and mused about it for a while. Whilst it is true that those very famous of us may be remembered for the things we did, the rest of us in general will not. Of all the people who are no longer in my life i confess i do not particularly remember what they did as a career, nor do i know their qualifications or if they were given awards or recommendations. Yet what i do remember long after they are gone is the kind of people they were and the roles they held in my life. For that i miss them greatly and yet for no other reason than that. They may have achieved great things, true enough, yet strangely it matters very little now that they are no longer here and those deeds have long since faded. Yet i shall remember those people and yes in many cases miss them greatly just for the kind of people that they were. 

I wondered then how i should like to be remembered when i am gone. Am i so guilty of wanting that which i do not have that i forget to be happy about what i have in the here and now. Perhaps it is all too easy to take for granted what you have, to assume you will always have it and to continually keep on reaching for the greener grass on the other side of the fence. Yet as i realised recently, assuming something is a constant in your life is easy until you see a glimpse of what your life would be without it. A thought we should all consider far more often than we do i think.

There is no doubt that we all need dreams. They give us purpose and give us something to make our lives worthwhile. Strangely though, we often do not realise that the happiest things we dream about most are often those things right under our very noses. It is not until we are in danger of losing them that we realise they are dreams at all. It may be something to consider that perhaps a dream does not cease to be a dream just because we attain it.

So another ring on my tree and if i take a rather maudlin moment to consider my mortality i shall adjust my perception and place a little greater importance on leaving a reason to be missed. No you will not remember my qualifications or my career. You will quickly forget any achievements that i made or even if i became famous. But what you will not forget, i know, is the small way in which i touched your life and hopefully made a difference. 

It only takes one person to keep a memory alive. Have you touched anyones life enough to be theirs?

A letter to Grandad

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Dear Grandad, 

I should have written this letter long ago but i guess i never knew how, or perhaps i wasn’t ready. I can’t believe it’s been 30 years since you left us, would you be surprised if you knew that even after all this time i can still think of you and cry? I know you would. You’d shake your head and laugh and hug me like you always did.

”Silly Billy” You’d say. But i know you’d be glad that i remember.

I never got to be famous Grandad, never made the rich list or ever did anything to make the history books. Never got to live my dreams and you know what a dreamer i always was. But i never gave up on them Grandad and i know there’s still time.

Are you proud of me? Yes i rather think you would be whether i’m famous or not. I’m a good person you see, just like you were and i know that would be enough for you. I’m still dreaming Grandad don’t you worry about that.

I haven’t changed much Grandad, do you still see the little girl i was? i’m sure you laugh and remember the stubborn pout and the folded arms and that funny little stamp of the foot i’d do when i wanted my own way. Well i’m still as stubborn as ever  although i pout a lot less these days than i did back then. But you always gave in and laughed at the funny little figure that i was.

I met someone too Grandad, and would you believe he talks more than i do? Yes im sure you would find that funny since i really was the most dreadful little chatterbox and i haven’t changed there either. I know you’d like him Grandad he’s a good man just like you. I’m sorry i know i’ve made you shake your head over the years at some of bad situations i got myself into. I know they were wrong for me  and i’m sure you worried that i’d never get it right. Not like you and Nana. But don’t worry Grandad i’m happy and i’m sure you noticed how much more i smile these days.

I wish you could have met your great grandchildren, i know they’d have loved you just as much as i did. Would you have taken them driving, singing ‘All things bright and beautiful’ to them in that oh so funny way as you did with me. I still can’t hear that song without hearing you in my head Grandad and it always makes me smile. I was worried that my daughter would choose that hymn at her wedding and i’d get the giggles in church when i heard it.  You’d like my children grandad, im hoping they grow up to be just as good people as you were. I wonder if you’d look at them and see anything of me in them at all?

I still talk to you sometimes when i’m alone. I wonder do you hear me? Somehow i think you do and it helps that i can tell you things and let you know how i am. You always did worry for me and i miss that even though im grown and shouldn’t need a grandad any more. Somehow though i’m pretty sure you’re watching over me just like you always did and waiting in the wings for me to run to you when i fall down.  Its been 30 years grandad are you surprised that i still miss you?

Did you see that your picture hangs upon my wall so that i can see you smiling down at me?

Don’t be. A man like you will always be remembered even after 30 years and i hope one day someone will miss me when im gone as much as i miss you.

I wrote you a letter Grandad, im sorry it took so long.

Amanda Jane

Through a door just like Alice

Curiouser and curiouser.

As far as the eye can see the doors stretch in an endless colourful sea, all so very different neither uniform nor alike. Some catch the eye more than others being gaudy and opulent, designed to draw the eye and the beholder like a magpie to some shiny coveted bauble. Others less assuming, meek and drab, so easily dismissed and passed by unless one had reason to tarry and examine them more closely. I cannot tarry i am looking for something.

I am here and this is me. My doors are there for a reason and each one hides behind it some memory or some thought that i have filed away for perusal at my leisure. Some doors do not stay shut and the contents seep around its edges reaching for my feet bidding me come and dwell a while within but i know i do not want to go there. Some inner sense of me alerts a warning that i know not from where but i shall heed it for it has been my constant companion and i know it almost as well as it knows me.

Something is seeking me or perhaps i am seeking it, i do not know. All i feel is that i am looking for something but i know not what, only that i shall know when i have found it. Behind this door then? So pretty and bright, leading me to think some rare happy memory resides within and i am happy to approach it. Even as my hand reaches out some instinct tells me this is not a happy place, some indistinct growl resonates from within stirring a familiar alarm making me snatch my outstretched hand away from its reach. Familiar a feeling yet i do not know what lives behind this door only that i do not want to go there. A lesson i have learned so well and i trust my instincts when they tell me what i cannot know.

A smaller door then? Something less obvious and unobtrusive and my eyes scan the row after row hoping something will stand out and suggest that i choose it but all remains as it was before. Nothing remarkable at all and i wonder that i should be so ordered when i sense such unseen chaos within. The nearest then and i choose one so small and dull as to be barely noticed, hesitating briefly before looking inside. This one i know, so small a feeling yet also so happy, still now frowning i realise it occupies so small a room. Why?

Door after door, some i will open but the greater i will not and i speed my steps to hasten my search. I must find it? But what? How strange this need to find something of which i am afraid and it leads me to frown as i turn this way and that with still no idea of where i am headed. I am afraid of this place i do not like to come here and i wish that i could turn and run back the way i came, back where it is safe. Yet i do not, cannot and so i must keep searching hoping i find what i seek before i am lost behind a door not of my choosing.

Doors, so many doors. An endless colourful sea of unassuming facades that stretch as far as the eye can see. I am here and here is me. Through a door just like Alice i chased my white rabbit and now i am lost save only for the grin of a cheshire cat who smiles yet does not smile.

I am here and this is me, i wonder can you find me?

In an alternate universe

Recently i have been sent a request to join a group for former pupils of my senior school by a few people so i decided to accept and take a walk down memory lane. Now unlike most people i loved school, i was the most incredible SWOT (a well used label in my formative years) and quite liked the idea of catching up with my peers.

Unfortunately such SWOT status left me firmly on the outskirts of school society, most definitely i was not one of the popular crowd but, like everyone, you find those like you and friends are made. I guess things really were not helped by the fact that until aged about fourteen when i blossomed i tended to resemble an anorexic boy, tall skinny and pale. Whilst my contemporaries were living the 80’s with big hair and wild manner of dress, i was more conservative more likely to be at home in an episode of The Waltons.

Parents are fantastic aren’t they? Little comprehending the importance of conformity mine blithely dispatched me out to be ridiculed and bullied as only children can be and in this part at least i had a dislike of school. Children can be very cruel at a time when you are most vulnerable and more likely to take it to heart than at any other time of your life.

So my boys shoes, frumpy clothes and i struggled our way through those teenage years bolstered by an assortment of non-conformist friends and a love of learning that has never left me. Still these many years later i was curious to see how my peers had turned out and wondered whether time had been as kind to them as it had to me and i happily accepted the invitations to join the group. Hunting through the groups to find the Class of 85 i scrolled the names hoping to find those i recognised, and scrolled, and scrolled some more. Frowning i double checked the name of the group and then finding it correct i scrolled again.

I DIDN’T RECOGNISE ANYONE!!!

Of all the names in all the groups i could not recognise one single solitary name. Certainly my old friends were not on there but surely i should remember the names of some of my classmates right?? I have an incredible memory, i rarely forget anything yet when i sat and thought about it and tried to remember the names of someone, anyone from my classes i cannot remember a single one. Perhaps i dreamt school?? Perhaps some alien conspiracy left me thinking i had attended school when i was younger when infact i had not. Perhaps i had gone to school in an alternate universe which bore no resemblance to this one?

WHY COULD I NOT REMEMBER??

Perhaps more likely the fact is that apart from those close few with whom i had great friendship and those teachers who were so kind to me in my school years i have simply forgotten all the things that made it unpleasant. Sometimes the mind has a funny way of blocking out things that it does not want remember, yet how curious i have memories far worse than these than linger with me. Certainly though it seems some of those people remember me (i imagine i probably i did their homework for them) yet i remember nobody at all. Nevertheless i decided i  shall stay in the group for part of me does hope that my real friends might join in time and it will be good to catch up with those who were important in the hardest years of my life. 

Perhaps it was an alternate universe after all.

Through a door just like Alice

Curiouser and curiouser.

As far as the eye can see the doors stretch in an endless colourful sea, all so very different neither uniform nor alike. Some catch the eye more than others being gaudy and opulent, designed to draw the eye and the beholder like a magpie to some shiny coveted bauble. Others less assuming, meek and drab, so easily dismissed and passed by unless one had reason to tarry and examine them more closely. I cannot tarry i am looking for something.

I am here and this is me. My doors are there for a reason and each one hides behind it some memory or some thought that i have filed away for perusal at my leisure. Some doors do not stay shut and the contents seep around its edges reaching for my feet bidding me come and dwell a while within but i know i do not want to go there. Some inner sense of me alerts a warning that i know not from where but i shall heed it for it has been my constant companion and i know it almost as well as it knows me.

Something is seeking me or perhaps i am seeking it, i do not know. All i feel is that i am looking for something but i know not what, only that i shall know when i have found it. Behind this door then? So pretty and bright, leading me to think some rare happy memory resides within and i am happy to approach it. Even as my hand reaches out some instinct tells me this is not a happy place, some indistinct growl resonates from within stirring a familiar alarm making me snatch my outstretched hand away from its reach. Familiar a feeling yet i do not know what lives behind this door only that i do not want to go there. A lesson i have learned so well and i trust my instincts when they tell me what i cannot know.

A smaller door then? Something less obvious and unobtrusive and my eyes scan the row after row hoping something will stand out and suggest that i choose it but all remains as it was before. Nothing remarkable at all and i wonder that i should be so ordered when i sense such unseen chaos within. The nearest then and i choose one so small and dull as to be barely noticed, hesitating briefly before looking inside. This one i know, so small a feeling yet also so happy, still now frowning i realise it occupies so small a room. Why?

Door after door, some i will open but the greater i will not and i speed my steps to hasten my search. I must find it? But what? How strange this need to find something of which i am afraid and it leads me to frown as i turn this way and that with still no idea of where i am headed. I am afraid of this place i do not like to come here and i wish that i could turn and run back the way i came, back where it is safe. Yet i do not, cannot and so i must keep searching hoping i find what i seek before i am lost behind a door not of my choosing.

Doors, so many doors. An endless colourful sea of unassuming facades that stretch as far as the eye can see. I am here and here is me. Through a door just like Alice i chased my white rabbit and now i am lost save only for the grin of a cheshire cat who smiles yet does not smile.

I am here and this is me, i wonder can you find me?

A Man just like Grandpa

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When i was young i was never a daddys girl nor yet a mummys girl like most children, right from the off i only had eyes for my paternal grandfather. To me he was grandad although to the world i know he was something else, which makes me sad for i would love to know the man he was and the life he lived. 

But to me he was just grandad.

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Memories of cuddles, cheek pressed against the scratchy wool of the waffle knit cardigans he wore as i sat cuddled up on his lap toying with the wood effect buttons that held it together. Never from Grandad came the scold not to pull at them because i would pull them off. No, never from him. Strange after all these years i remember his car so well, a bright yellow Hillman Hunter rapidly filled by my brother, sister and i as we piled into the back for another adventure with Grandad. ”come on then girls sing me a song” he would say and my sister and i would so happily oblige, squawking out our own rendition of Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs’ in the way that only children can. Grandad never cared if we were off key, i bet if you’d asked him back then he would confess he never noticed

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Yes we loved to sing for Grandad but just as much we loved him to sing to us for he was funny in a way that tickled us immensely and always wise to when a little girl needed to smile. We would beg him to sing as he drove around the hills speeding up over them so that our tummies flew up into our mouths as we descended the other side and we would shriek with glee and beg for more. All things bright and beautiful, this was grandads song although i doubt the vicar ever heard it sung so in church. Every time he came to the word ALL it would be sung in a really high pitched voice totally out of character with the rest of the song and guaranteed to have us in fits of giggles and i confess to this day i cannot hear that song without hearing his rendition in my head.

Oh if there were ever a hero of any little girls childhood then my Grandad was mine, my refuge, my rock and the best man i have ever known. Never did i need to explain for he always knew and hindsight makes me wish i had told him so whilst he was alive. But something tells me that if he did not know it then he most definitely does now. Sadly my Grandad died when i was in my early teens and somehow i knew long before my parents told me that he was gone. I remember well the startled look on my parents faces as i blurted out ”Grandads dead isnt he” before they had even said a word. They consoled themselves that i had overheard but i hadn’t, some things you just know. I have but one photograph of my grandad and it hangs on my living room wall where he smiles his gentle smile down upon me. And i know he is there, smiling as my hand reaches for the Radox bath salts that i buy just because he did and i feel him nod his approval as he always did.

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Yes my Grandad was the best of men and maybe someday i will find out his story and if i ever meet another someone i hope with all my heart that he is a man just like Grandpa. 

Charity begins at home

I’m a hoarder! there i said it.

Actually perhaps that would’ve been more effective in some addicts group where i stand up and say ”Hi i’m Amanda and i’m a hoarder”

The truth is i’m actually a bit of a contradiction for although i like to hoard i’m also exceptionally tidy and get rather obsessive about clutter being on view. Mess bugs me, i mean REALLY bugs me in a ‘hey i’m going to spoil your day’ kind of way. So You’d never guess that somewhere lurking away i have a zillion things waiting to tumble from cupboards and crammed so high under the bed that it barely stands on its own four feet. I know i dont need 40 pairs of jeans and 50 pairs of boots/ shoes but i like them! Sure i have a kindle and i dont need the hundreds of books tucked into dozens of small spaces around the room and nor do i need my own personal blockbusters store but who cares i want one!!

But sometimes even i have to admit that things are getting out of hand and stuff just isnt going to be used, hey if it was i wouldnt have replaced it with something better right?? So yesterday i decided a really good clear out was in order and figured i’d have a ruthless sort through and donate to charity. Some time later with a large pile of belongings building small walls around me i cringed in horror as i sorted through a long untouched CD collection. All of my music is on my pc so none of them ever get played. More to the point did i really go out and buy some of this stuff??!!. Backstreet boys, nsync, kylie minogue, steps(okay that one,  that’s definitely not mine!!) Okay one big charity bag coming up!!

Movie promo tshirts, competition prizes from my comping days, books, old mp3 players, the list goes on and on and the bags steadily grew. That bed throw i hated( well it looked okay in the store!) pretty but redundant laundry basket cluttering up the bottom of the stairs and that lamp i replaced ages ago. Oh it grew and grew. Coming down for lunch my son tripped over a playstation cable and surveyed the mess before exclaiming loudly ”i didnt hear the bomb drop!” 

Don’t you just love sarcasm!! Actually confession time i think he gets it from me, sarcastic humour seems to run in our family and irony whilst bypassing many is definitely not lost on us!!

Hours and hours later i had the mini mountain sorted and the ‘okay i’ll part with it if you prise it from my grip’ pile was barring the way out of my front door. Having wheedled darling son into volunteering to take it to the charity shop i did make a concession and agree to let him go when it was dark and give in to his refusal to carry a large dried flower arrangement.Okay i can see his point a teenager doesnt want to be seen wandering through town with mummys dried flowers, im not that harsh. 

So as my contribution to charity disappeared up the road i sat myself down with the only trunk in the house that will never be cleared out. My memory chest. Years and years of special memories,  love letters, gifts, even train tickets from special days out with special people. My ‘something to look back on when i am old’ box.  And as i cleaned off the dust i had to smile at an old painted hand print from when my youngest was small, poem about sticky hand prints all long ago faded as she leaves in a cloud of perfume calling a goodbye over her shoulder. But i have only to open my trunk and remember, a lifetime of special memories.Some things are just worth hoarding..arent they.

 

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