After the funeral phase was complete, I began clearing out the shelves in Mum’s pantry, and wiping down the dust and grime that accumulates over many years.
So many memories lurk in a pantry, so cleaning and clearing allows an ideal walk down memory lane.
The different ingredients for baking every week, the meals served on the “good” dinner set now with many pieces either chipped or missing from years of use.
The “pie guy” that I got to put in the middle of the pie when I stayed up the farm and was allowed to help my grandmother make delicious pies and then drive them down to feed the workers in the shearing shed in the old red vauxhall car.
The incessant short pieces of string, sewing cotton, knitting wool and Christmas tinsel that were used to tie up stuff in the garden, but mostly kept “just in case” they were needed. They never were.
Then what seemed like hundreds of small things that had broken off things and were kept “just in case” they could be re-used. They never were.
There were armies of empty jam jars, some with lids, some without.
Where would a pantry be without a specialist platoon of empty Agee branded bottling jars, some with lids, some without.
As I wiped, music flowed out my iTunes favourites playlist making the job a little easier.
With the job nearly done, I’m standing on a chair wiping out the top shelf and on comes Elvis singing Amazing Grace.
Between the tears and being surrounded by all the memories, all I could think about was a blues musician and honky tonk piano player called Jan Preston who wrote a song called Eat Chocolate and Cry …. but where was my bloody chocolate!
Imagine my joy when I remembered the shelf below had a jar containing a packet of white chocolate buttons for baking muffins! My blues song was complete.
Clearing out Mum’s house has bought many lessons.
The biggest learning is that when you die there are many decisions you don’t get to make anymore and your family just run riot through things that were important or dear to you.
Yes we have salvaged the family heirlooms and all those special little memories including my 52 year “Pom Panda”. I won “Pom Panda” in a Christmas raffle when I was 5. We had been through so much together, I just couldn’t put him in the rubbish skip.
He will live to at least strut his stuff at the local thrift shop, complete with new bandana. An old chap with his growl now gone and most of his fur loved off. Pom needs all the cosmetic help he can get!
Fingers crossed a small child will adopt him and he will find a loving home for another few years.
But the miles of string, ripped up sheets and tinsel holding the plants up in the garden were snipped and thrown as the house was made “market ready”.
That plate with the big crack that loyally served a purpose for so many years but won’t even be welcome on a thrift shop shelf. Well that just hit the bottom of the rubbish skip in one shattering second.
Thank goodness for cousin Tony who has an obsession with collecting old tools and interesting stuff for his garage museum. Bless best friend Heather who I’ve known since she was a baby. She can’t bear to see teacups left to their own devices, but even those people have limits.
As we try to give stuff away, the response is generally, “thanks, but I’m trying to get less stuff now, not more”.
Stuff loses its significance
The significance of most stuff goes when a soul departs and we are only left with the memories associated with what then becomes thrift shop clutter.
I strongly believe the trick in life is to create memories strong enough so they don’t need a physical item associated with them to be special.
After ditching so much of my own stuff a couple of years ago I’ve become very grateful for the not so pleasant garage sale experience that caused my massive de-clutter.
Left with nothing, it would be very easy for me to want to scoop up everything from Mum’s house and have it shipped somewhere so I can have a “normal” life again.
Instead what I’m taking will fit in my suitcase and its only photos, 8mm movies converted to digital format and the silly stuff like “the pie guy” that’s coming with me.
The empowering thing in all this is the realisation that my new “on the road” freedom based lifestyle is something I want to keep doing, for the next few years anyway.
So as I sit here listening to Elvis again, grateful the sun has come out and melted the frozen lawn. I can now go out and pick up the leaves and sweep up the recurring mess the birds leave on the path as they dig in Mum’s garden looking for worms. But the thing I’m most grateful for is the decision I made years back to create my own business.
Yes this time off is a disaster for the balance sheet but it has given so many gifts and rich experiences (along with a few hissy fits) that make the physical not really matter.
I’ve had cousins I haven’t seen in thirty years phoning up inviting me around for dinner.
I’ve had friends bail me up in a corner to tell me if I need cash to come and see them.
I had a local retailer who recognised me from my rock and roll days offer to come and move furniture with his trailer. I don’t even remember him sneaking in under age to hear us play.
I’ve been in way worse scrapes than this. I know having garnered that key marketing information, when you’ve built once ……. you know how to build again.
I always like to say that rock bottom provides a solid foundation for building your dreams upon, and this is just another opportunity for the phoenix to rise …… again.
Freedom is one of the greatest gifts
Having this time to reflect and immerse in the process of grieving and getting Mum’s house sold. Getting all the ends tied up. Despite the blistering cold and a suitcase full a summer clothes. Despite the inevitable family stuff. Despite being back in a place I left 35 years earlier to “make it”, now knowing that dream never really manifested. The gift to chose to take a couple of months off is greater than anything a corporate pay cheque bought me.
The Funniest Lesson – Never Cull Too Hard
I had a little bit of left over soup I wanted to store in the fridge last week. Guess what I couldn’t find to put it in???
You guessed, not one single glass jar in the place. All the jam jars and bottling jars were taken to the recycling unit at the rubbish tip!
I could only smile and hear Mum saying, “you never throw useful things out because there could be a rainy day when you need it”
Dam …. it’s not raining ….. but I don’t have a glass jar in the house and need one …….. she was right …… again!
Pom Panda update
Pom has been saved from the indignity of the Op Shop.
He took flowers, he offered gifts of tea cups from Mum’s cupboards, and in the end my friend Heather broke down and stated “Pom, you are such a suck …. but you can stay for now!
He even has his own chair now!
He is pictured above over 50 years ago the Christmas morning I won him in the local brass band raffle – priceless!