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Memories are made of this

Memories are made of thisI do love the idea of decluttering in theory. I’m just not much good at it in practice. But I was reminded, at a funeral the other day, of how easy it is to throw away the things that matter.

We were saying goodbye to my lovely Auntie June, whose glamorous sense of style and Sunday lunches were a comforting constant for three generations of her family. She was always beautifully dressed and still wore ten den tights and heels at 90.

When my cousin, Kate, gave the eulogy in the church, it wasn’t just a 90-year-old woman we were saying goodbye to, it was the 19-year-old War Office secretary who had to wave off her new boyfriend, my Uncle Frank, to the airfields of Canada to learn how to fly Spitfires in less time than it takes to learn Twitter today.

It was the glamorous dippy 60s mum who went to feed the hens in a fake leopard skin coat because she had forgotten all about them till she was all ready to go out. It put them off laying for three days apparently.

And we were also saying goodbye to one of the few people who knew what it was like to get all dressed up for a night out and then have to spend it in the London Underground sheltering
from bombs.

But her memories will live on, in her husband and their children and in the letters and photographs and the things that they treasured. As Kate told us, Auntie June had a story for every ring and bauble in her jewellery box, and she gave them away to her grandchildren when they were old enough to look after them. She passed her things on, and the memories with them, which is an art I worry that my generation has lost.

In our rush to declutter, we risk wiping our personal memory boards clean. We tend to keep the ‘valuable’ stuff but ditch the kitsch. And when my mother died, my sister and I took comfort and gallows’ humour in pointing out the things we could finally get rid of – the grim plastic blue and white pots my parents insisted in keeping the coffee tea and sugar in… as well as, not instead of, a separate glass jar, so that making a cuppa involved an elaborate game of Russian dolls. It drove my brother-in-law crazy. The 3D painting of a Spanish holiday scene that we couldn’t even explain away by saying it was painted by one of the kids. And the ranks of tacky modern oil lamps that blocked the view of the art deco ones she’d picked up for a fiver in the 60s.

We bundled them all off to the charity shop, but somehow we couldn’t bring ourselves to get rid of everything completely. My sister gave the blue pots to my brother-in-law with some cash from our mum in it; the hideous picture is now in my kitchen, embarrassing my children; and last month, my Mum’s tackiest, brightest oil lamps lit the garden at my daughter’s 17th birthday. It was good to have her around.

Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn

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