This photo was taken on the first anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. That long ago. Our visit to her grave at Althrop. Found in the box of photographs tucked deep inside a cupboard I keep locked away when I am not here. I am seldom here. All my family things are here.
Our family home is in the Cape, in South Africa. I live in London. Still in the nomadic stage of life, I rent in London but keep our family home intact on the other side of the world. Times we rent it out, times we just lock it up and return for the summer. It’s when I return, for a little while, that all the memories surround me, time to go back and swim into the past. Not always easy, much has happened in the interim, but fortunate to find the pieces of self that brings nostalgia, but also a sense of belonging, and inspiration to pack the suitcase and fare out again. The past will be here, when I am ready to surround myself with it years from now, but some say I am fortunate, and sometimes I have to remind myself of that.
When children leave home, they are not ready to take their lives with them. To much to do, achieve, races to run. We are the keepers of their pasts until they are ready to settle and own them. Do you do the same? Hold onto your children through their chapters with you? Admit to moments when hanging on seems more of a burden, only to realise how blessed I am, to have the role of keeper of what our lives became, once was, the weaver of the threads, the creator of the tapestry. The gatekeeper.
So I make a quiet time, a peaceful time, to look back. We need to do that. When life is fraught with anxiety, and at times pure hopelessness, when the road forward seems dark and foreboding and we are that stage when some of us are alone and despite the courage we all have within ourselves, daunted – it is a good thing. We owned our youth, silly dreams, too much experimenting – our weddings and first jobs – being the smug mummies and creating homes. When it was simple and no longer seems so. The memory boxes remind us of a time of everyday magic, of swimming lessons and toddlers birthday parties. Beach holidays and freckles on their faces. Our parents who may not be here anymore. Of laden tables and slim waists.
Going through the school days. The all important, all consuming years of exams (yes, we soothed your fevered brows), the dances and first dates (yes, we listened and were there for you). The sports games and rugby matches (yes, we closed our eyes in case you got hurt and wanted to run onto the field and box the ears of those you bullied you) and when you brought home your ‘Christmas’ decorations and we swooned over them. All still in the boxes.
A few photos of myself, only back then, photos were rare and not the best, not so? The odd school photograph of badly cut hairstyles and teenage angst. Beautiful wedding photographs. Now my daughter’s also. All in the boxes.
It is a time of reflection, and a time of … gathering the threads to say ‘ it was good’, and put them back at this time in the new year. They will be safe and no matter what the future holds, the past was pretty awesome. We are the fabric of how we dealt with the past, and that fabric, that tapestry, is the forever binding to what we do with it, and take it into the future.
Which is looking pretty good, now that I have had a giggle and a sigh at the boxes of memories. I know I keep everything, photographs, toys, slips and receipts and you know why, when I feel lost, as I often do lately, it really helps with the courage, to say, I am ok, I can be proud of where I have come from and even more excited of where I am going.