Monday 25th February 2013
I spent the late afternoon in my parent-in-law's attic, not because they'd finally realised what bad news I was and had locked me away, but because my wife was picking up boxes of her old stuff that was being stored there.
Attics are slightly eerie places (especially if they are home to an insane, feral son-in-law with eyes unused to light who scampers in the shadows chewing on discarded bones), packed as they are with objects from the past that are of too much sentimental value to discard, but not enough sentimental value to display. Old train sets from childhood days and the walking sticks of the elderly (and presumably now gone) lie side by side, a box of dusty 45s (and probably somewhere a broken down record player which would be the only way to hear them), boxes of old letters, files of old work and bills, old fashioned suit-cases with the golden initials of someone who no longer needs to go anywhere - a catalogue of what we've gained and what we've lost. Although this was not my parents' attic it might as well have been - the items would not stir up any memory for me and yet by their universality they were evocative. Most of these items are waiting hopefully to be recovered, but in all likelihood will stay in this same place until the time comes for someone else to move in, when they will nearly all be thrown away. They are in a purgatory, hoping to be rescued and used again, but in all likelihood just passing time until they are finally thrown away. My wife's box of comedy VHSs must have pretty much resigned itself to its landfill fate and I must confess I argued vehemently for us leaving it behind as we had most of the stuff on DVD anyway. But my wife was not going to let anything go. The VHSs lived to see the light of day and will get to go into a cupboard in our house (for a bit at least- I will do all I can to destroy them).
As well as the poignancy of this object halfway house, somewhere between life and death, was the ever present danger of injury and mishap. Would anyone lose a finger pulling down the retractable ladder? Would someone fall as they ascended or descended? Might someone step in the wrong spot and come crashing down through the bedroom ceiling? Might one of us absent mindedly step back into
the inviting open hatch or just trip over a fondue set and fall head-first to doom?
As it was we got all the bags and boxes to the car without any broken bones. This stuff had been given the chance of a new life. But it was a reminder of the transcience of our possessions and of ourselves. Eventually the things we cherish will be put in a loft or a skip by someone to whom they have no value at all. Our teenage love letters and diaries and school folders and toys and obsolete entertainment units and photo albums and hard drives and zimmer frames. It all just goes to the tip in the end.
Nothing like being in a loft to give you a sense of your own importance.
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