Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy maturing a good bone or a chew over time in order to savour the flavour the next time I am minded to gnaw. But my partner’s collection extends to more than a few fang-marked rawhide chews. Her boxes contain an eclectic assortment, to bark the least. School exercise books from her infant years; souvenirs, postcards and photographs from past holidays; old Christmas and Birthday cards; letters from old friends and much-loved and long-deceased relatives; gifts and knick-knacks accumulated over the years; etc. In the absence of wealth and abundance, the memories inspired by these otherwise trivial items are her most precious treasures.
Now that we are settled in our little house and the spring is upon us, my partner has become inspired to sort out her boxes. Some contain pictures and books which can be “upgraded” to shelves and walls, thus freeing up storage space and making our house more homely. Two weeks ago, the Great Sort-Out began. Naturally, my capabilities inclined me towards a supervisory role. To begin with, it was a case of picking out decorative items for the home and sorting all the Private Eye magazines into one box, all the old Doctor Who mags into another, and gaining some semblance of order among the chaos. However, as various forgotten items were re-discovered, I grew increasingly fascinated as my partner shared with me some of her significant memories.
It then struck me that we, ourselves, are much like these boxes. We carry around our experiences, both good and bad, tightly packed inside us. Grief over lost loved-ones and past happiness are locked away until we are ready or wishing to find them again. These treasures are never seen unless we choose to unpack them and share them with others, and old times can be appreciated once more. One box in particular offered up a suitably representative sample. Together, my partner and I examined:
Photos of my partner as a small child;
A school exercise book from when my partner was learning to write (I was particularly impressed with her rendering of the word “goat”. A sign of things to come, perhaps…);
Cards given to my partner on her eighth birthday;
A painting of a horse by my partner aged ten (to be honest, it looked like someone had sneezed some gravy onto a piece of paper, but I am assured it was a horse);
a questionnaire designed by my ten-year-old partner, for a school project to obtain the views of town residents on the council’s proposed bypass road (now a long-established route - the main road to London, in fact);
Some pictures of my canine predecessors, Jaki and Tess (Jaki had lived to a reasonable age – Tess, alas, had succumbed to cancer aged only seven after an epically brave battle and many trips to the vet, which left my partner with a legacy of financial problems. Although every single penny was one well-spent.);
A handwritten letter from my partner’s Great-Auntie Win, expressing much love in her pretty writing (Auntie being the first - and dearly-loved - close relative of my partner’s to pass away);
Some photos of my teenaged partner messing about with her friends;
A beautiful dark wood marquetry box.
This last item brought forth more of the tears that had first appeared when re-reading Auntie Win’s letter. The wooden box was carefully retrieved, cradled, and placed on a shelf. I assumed that this was a jewellery box but, upon enquiry, my partner told me that the precious casket contained only ashes. There was a little brass plaque affixed to the top of the carved box.
It read simply “Tess”.
Youth; education; happiness; grief - all in one cardboard box; tucked carefully away in an unassuming receptacle until the memories are ready to be explored once again.
More "Evolution" next time - when Dave has his revenge...!