Monday, 12 January 2015

Heritage and Hipsters

This weekend, in a rather masochistic mood, I decided to clean out. I mean, The Big Clean, the one I promised myself I would attempt over the summer. These are the things that slip behind while what we call 'life' goes on, right? 

You may not know this but in my house I have many wooden trunks. I used to collect them. You may also not know that I moved around quite a lot in the early years (I was even going to say 'self-defining years', but when does one ever finish defining Self; we are all works-in-progress). So, in these many wooden trunks I have been stashing letters, photographs, kids' drawings, unwanted jewellery, beads, more photographs, beady-eyed sculptures, torn diaries, for years and years. 

I need a drink before I can open them. 

As I began I remembered something that a friend once wrote to me - in a handwritten letter!- that stuck. She spoke about the moment that she was putting out the rubbish and she looked back to the lights of her house, where her family (since split up, re-partnered, split up) had just finished dinner. She said that in that moment, she saw her life, and she realised she was content.

This thought crystallised as I started to open envelope after envelope of images. Just-born babies, kids in trucks, first-day-at-school shots, art shots, nudes, road trip reports, ceremonies, a friend who told me he would kill himself, (and did); more breastfeeding shots, a new baby, a tableful of family, bedraggled kids on a beach, sandcastles, my hero Youssou N'Dour..

And then, at the bottom of the trunk, face down, I saw love. Oh geez. That knocked me for six. You remember it. You wanted it so hard, you fought for it so hard.

And you lost, by the way.

Initially your kids are such unknowing and generous beings, prepared to love you unconditionally as you do them, but if they knew. If they knew how messy it all was then, all the high drama, would they have traded you in or begged to be adopted out?

I wonder. And yet, looking at these innumerable photos, you see moments where it worked, where there was harmony, deep and fundamental harmony or snatches of it.

Years ago, when my kids were young and we had come to live in this house, I used to go outside in the dark with a cup of tea and look up at the bedroom lights glowing. Even then I knew I was holding onto it, that these moments were vast and finite. Now, most of my kids have moved out to study and I rather enjoy walking up to the main road with the rubbish, along the unsealed drive between the vineyard and the green winter wheat, with the dark villa on the rise looking like Arnold Böcklin's Island of the Dead. It isn't a long walk, but it's enough to allow a few thoughts to wriggle loose. On the way down the hill - always - I see the house lit up, less than in years passed, and I think Yes, this is happening now, this is what it is.

Not a bad thought.


In other wild and alluring news from the ranch I spotted a pair of hipsters at my local country supermarket. I began a sneaky pursuit. Were they real hipsters who had moved here to grow cherries? Were they on a visit to some confounded farmer - a family relative? I followed the girl's blue hair and the guy's cropped beard and tattooed neck and rolled-up jeans until they cottoned on to my crooked trolley full of dog food.

It remains a mystery.

18 comments:

  1. Beautiful meditation on heritage, family, the fleeting moments and the doubts creeping in (but hopefully not regrets) about the choices we make in life.

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    1. Thank you Marina. No regrets. I'd probably jump in and do it all over again. Who knows?

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  2. This post made me smile, then cry. Beautiful writing.

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    Replies
    1. Don't cry Rae! Well yes we must I guess. And have done! All is bittersweet, no?
      Xxcat

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  3. Very nice blog..glad to read your posts.

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  4. I have to tell you that I read this some days ago and kept meaning to get back over here and comment. During that time, I kept seeing you out in the dark with your cup of tea. That entire paragraph is deliciously descriptive. I've read it over a few times although I did have to Google Arnold Brocklin's Island of the Dead for the full affect. Sigh. You're such a wonderful writer.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Leslie. I'm glad you enjoyed the read. it's good to stop every so often, no? What a ride..

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  5. Ahhhh Cat... I've been paralleling you... I don't know what prompted it but I started to clear out old drawers - I had a vague intent of finally moving onto the attic space (before the weight of the years and years of living collapses into the 5th floor bedrooms). I didn't get beyond the hoards of photos in the old drawers. And I drew everyone into the feast of past holidays and winters and of christmas mornings and first school days... There's been a lot of water under the bridge - and I've wondered at my failings and the damage I've undoubtedly done in the course of just being chaotic me. But mostly I felt a thankfulness. Just to have been granted this life; these kids; this world. Thank you for this lovely post... Yvonne xxx

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    1. Yes sista, all the damage I have done! I'm not ready to draw everyone into it though. There are chapters that went straight back into the trunk..

      Hope all is good for you xxx

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