Reducing the past to fit into one suitcase…

First sign of spring and the promise of sunnier times ahead.

First sign of spring and the promise of sunnier times ahead.

Having journeyed to India in October,  not quite on a whim but unplanned and unexpected nevertheless, meant that I had no time to sort out my life before boarding the plane on the ‘adventure of a lifetime’.   But embarking on a five year break from the UK necessitates making decisions about belongings and possessions as most airlines only allow 23 kilograms of baggage and anyway, it is not practical to carry reminders of your whole past along with you.

I tackled the easier parts with great gusto and pruning my wardrobe to acceptable proportions to fit in with my new nomadic existence did not pose any problems.  No need to hold on to over-warm jumpers or  elegant dresses, and high-heeled shoes and knee-length winter boots are no longer sensible.  Temptations during shopping trips into Cheltenham are smoothly resisted as the fashions in the shop windows are clearly unsuitable for the Indian monsoon weather that awaits me and will no longer be the rage by the end of my wandering days.   And eBay will be all the richer as my cast-offs find eager buyers on the internet.

The real challenge is in parting with belongings accumulated over a life time; the trinkets and prized possessions, holiday mementoes and stacks of photographs.  A shared lifetime to be discarded, so choices have to be made.  I will not be hoarding the past in boxes, nor pay exorbitant fees to cling to a history that no longer exist.   All the memories that matter are stored in my head for easy access on lonely days when I pretend to be cheerful, on sad days when I am searching for the sun, and on the happy days when joyful reminiscences add to the exuberance of the  moment.  And the painful thoughts are being buried ever deeper in far flung corners where they rest and less often now rear their ugly heads.

They are surprising though, the things that get to you when the final decisions place them onto the heap of discards.   Last year, around Easter, I dissolved in floods of tears disposing of car shampoos and polishes, car washing sponges and shammy leathers, all stuff dear to a car adoring ex-husband.   The shed has not been touched since.  Just a few weekends ago, in preparation of letting my house, it was my daughter’s turn to confront a multitude of possessions left behind.  She officially flew the nest more than three years ago, but forgot to put a lot of her collected teenage and student paraphernalia  on the same ‘flight’…  ‘Her’ room was still packed with law books, dusty DVDs, an out-of-tune guitar and let’s not forget an assortment of cuddly toys.  And it was the soft toys that made her reach for the box of tissues as not all of them would find a home in her own house.  Son seems to have fewer issues with the impending  move; he will not get rid of anything but just transfer the boxes from one house to the next…  certainly a less painful way of dealing with the past.

The car was the first to go…  After months of hanging on to a car that really was too big and too expensive for me to run, sense had to prevail; so it was with a heavy heart that at the end of October I deposited my car at the garage where it would be awaiting a new and very lucky owner…  It was the car I had planned to keep forever; to keep until old age (the car’s, not mine….) would render it beyond repair and I had envisaged a gentle and slow disentanglement…   I felt cosseted in that car, secure and invincible.  I could hurtle down the motorways , maybe just a little foot-heavy (should the speedometer really be pushing 90 miles???). whilst listening, singing and sobbing to the all-too-loud music blaring from my iPod.  Parting with that car was parting with a cherished history.  This car traversed the lengths and breadths of England exploring then unknown territory such as the M1, M6, M5, M42 and the M62 over the Pennines..  It found its way to Edinburgh, Durham and Newcastle.  It visited the university towns of Southampton and Exeter and was often filled to the brim ferrying back our kids accompanied by unexpected fellow students who also happened to live up North and had suddenly become unstuck and without transport.  The Land Rover coped with it all, without a groan or any complaints.  But I always knew that me holding on to this car was really having it on borrowed time, so the farewell was inevitable…

And who would have imagined that selling a humble bed could  trigger such powerful emotions; it is after all but a mere assembly of wooden planks, fabric and foam…  But when the bed,  only sold the blink of an eye before on eBay, was collected by its new owner, the feeling of incredible loss was overwhelming.  We bought this bed when the children were small and little feet found their way to our bedroom, wanting a cuddle and share in the warmth and comfort of our bed. For years, the biggest bed was a haven in the morning where stories were read, nursery rhymes sung, tricky time tables rehearsed, incredible fun to be had, husband raised eyebrows at the chitter-chatter interrupting his sleep… until that time when children grow up and a parents’ bedroom becomes taboo…  Our bed was never a cradle of battles, always the source of joy and contentment and the mornings were the perfect time of day, even after the kids no longer joined us, or maybe especially after the kids no longer joined us.  And I revisit these mornings, the mornings when husband would come into the room bringing me freshly brewed coffee, two cups, without fail.  I remember the calm and serenity of our grown up conversations whilst husband got dressed, and the unspoken bond that held us together.  So how could I have missed  the distance that grew between us as we chose to stay on our own sides of the bed and the coldness of the bed sheets reflected the widening chasm…  But I was blinded by what was so vividly but wordlessly put in front of my eyes.  It is amazing how many things are oblivious to those who care not to look or who believe that any blemishes are temporary and can be easily brushed aside in time…  So before the bed was whisked away suddenly and without decorum, I buried my face into the sheets and blankets and put my head on the pillows to take in their discernible sweet smell and a lifetime of memories as my fingers caressed the contours of his imprint on the mattress one final time.

Letting go is not easy.

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