Belongings, Adelaide, June 2015


My father has recently died; and my mother died 10 years ago. So, my siblings and I are now engaged in the process of ‘going through’, ‘sorting out’ our parents’ belongings. I have trouble finding the right way to describe this activity, emotionally complex as it is, for we are now having to make decisions about things that have had significance in our parents’ and our past shared lives. It is a difficult and painful process, but one that brings with it moments too of lightness, surprise and joy. One way or another, this experience feels meaningful. 

Just when we are feeling overwhelmed, and resorting to turning the process into ‘chores that have to be done’, we are called to attention: this can’t be hurried; the time the process takes need to be respected.

Here is an instance of this calling to attention. My father was an organised man, and had all his files and papers, for want of a better term, clearly classified. Thus there had been an initial temptation to simply assign a labelled box to x archive or whatever. We decided, however, to do a quick check of contents before such an action. And, in the process, we unexpectedly came across a document that gave us pause. It was a piece I’d written (and more or less forgotten) some15 years previously, when our parents were in the process of downsizing and moving to the house in which we were now sitting.

Here is that piece:

The things that share our lives

We have now taken that chair to an upholsterer to have it restored. One of us will take care of it.



3 thoughts on “Belongings, Adelaide, June 2015

  1. I love the meaning of heirloom so deeply explored in this piece. An odd leap perhaps, but it is for me akin to the joy of family revealed in a grandchild, an heir to the family.

  2. Ann, the tenderness and gravity with which you write about these cherished things has stirred memories for me of my family’s things.
    Initially I thought – oh, I don’t have this love of, or care for, my family’s things. I hardly have it for my own! But your description of the cutlery feeling just right between your fingers reminds me of the way i have come to feel about certain habits the members of my family share; those peculiar Marlin ways of doing things that bewilder others, but feel so right to us. Like our habit of letting the phone ring out on weekend afternoons when we just aren’t in the mood to talk to anyone.
    But to think about that is to recall the very specific time and space that this habit was born…
    On Saturday afternoons, after a morning full of sporting and social commitments, our usually noisy house would quite suddenly fall into quietness. Without consultation we would, all six or eight of us (depending on who was living there at the time) retire  into our own solitary activities. My mum would be in the kitchen listening to radio national, my father might be in the lounge room, lying on his back listening to music, my bothers off in which ever nook or cranny they choose to read their books or magazines. Sometimes I used to just wander from room to room, revelling in the sweet emptiness. this mood has so much to do with particular features of our house: the high ceilings down stairs, the tiny study off the kitchen where the phone sat ringing, the way the afternoon light used to pour in through the side door and onto the bottom steps of the staircase leading upstairs (a favourite place of mine to sit and think) the luxurious expanse of my parents well-made bed (a wonderful place to flop). When this sweet, gently quiet mood fell on the house no-one would get up to answer a ringing phone; not even if a call was expected. It was as if, by some silent compact, we had all agreed not to break the spell that had settled over the afternoon. 
    These afternoons explain habits that we all still have today. But they don’t make any sense without the ceilings and the higedly-pigeldy maze of rooms that grew up around our ever expanding family, or the way the kitchen opened up to the areas where we ate and played. These habits and the memories i have of them have a home. They too were born somewhere; and to recall them is to bring that home, long since evacuated of Marlins, to life again.
    This made me reflect on what I mean by ‘things’ and my assumption that I’m not a ‘materialistic’ person. The family psyche or spirit I’ve described is absolutely housed in a place, a time, and the particular design and furnishings of the house I grew up in.
    I wonder if passing on such habits or my memories of them is a way of passing on that Saturday afternoon ‘mood’ and what it felt like to be in my house on such days? Is it a way of revealing the life of that house to my own children?

  3. It is such a beautiful piece and assures me that I am not silly in worrying about who will treasure all my china and jewellry when I am gone. We have no children and have to depend on godchildren to honour the life in them. Or will they?
    Thank you Ann.

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