Monthly Archives: May 2014

Bubble Wrapping Memories

Crossed legged on my African cushion cover, a handmade memento from Mozambique (well, Tracey handmade it, I brought the material home!) I sit surrounded by china, wood and paper. Carefully, I cut a strip of bubble wrap, resisting the urge to pop each sphere and satisfy my inner child. For this time I must be a grown up. I select a cherished memory, a glossy cat; a silver echidna and place it lightly on the waiting cushion. Slowly, I draw the blanket of air around my past and swaddle it, tucking it up safely to sleep in a darkened box until it is time for me to reawaken it and re-examine my past.

Brushing items with my fingertips I smile as I notice the blue-tac still stuck to the bottom of small china animals, the remnants of a childish period of collection. Figurines stuck to the window sill to protect them from the curiosity of Misty, the original black cat. These ‘pets’ are all that is left after periodic culls of my life. This cull is the most savage so far, yet I am unable to say good bye to sweet cat figurines, or seahorse mobiles bought to remember my adventures. I am particularly fond of my travel mementos, proof that a world exists beyond the horizon of work and sleep; reminders to look beyond my mundane existence; the reason all my possessions have to be packed away in the first place.

No tears are shed, but wry smiles are a-plenty and a hollowness opens in my chest as boomerangs and bodhran disappear in a haze of air and plastic. In no time at all my fragile valuables fill a box the size of a pillow, in suspended animation until I return.

The bubble wrap ends before I am able to put away everything though. I am still bound to my past even after I forget its physical form. Joy, pain and lives lived and lost still resonate within me.

My Life in 30KG

30KG. That’s the baggage allowance for my move to Myanmar. 30KG! It will barely cover my clothes, let alone my teaching resources and other ‘western’ necessities I might not be able to get out there.

Now, I know I can pay for more allowance or even ship things over to myself but it did lead me to ask myself a very interesting question: just how do you condense 40 years of life (nearly 20 of which has been spent accumulating the trappings of a normal adult existence) in to a couple of bags?

In the past, I would say that I’ve always been pretty good at removing the excess or unnecessary from my environment. I’ve never been a hoarder, or much of a collector. When I had to leave my mortgaged, grown up, almost married life I managed to walk away with only the bare necessities, taking what was mine and leaving my more innocent past behind me in the attic for someone else to deal with.  (A cruel revenge but not something I regret!).  I thought I’d got away quite lightly but when I had to pack it all up again for my more recent house move I discovered I had far more ‘stuff’ than I thought. Items from a life together that were taken to replace what I’d originally invested into our home and future now have an irrational significance. I don’t want to have to shell out again for things I already have, but is that because they are linked to the best (and worst) time in my life?

Now, I have to reduce that down even further to a 15 x 18 ft storage shed and 30KG of luggage. And I’m not sure where to begin. What do you prioritise? What should you keep in case you return sooner rather than later? What can you really do without and buy only IF you really need it?

Suddenly, some things seem really important to me, mostly my travel mementos and my library, items I associate with significant memories, people and events. But other things, like my music, have been sidelined as ‘downloadable and therefore lighter’. Furniture I know I’ll need when I return and have sentimental value, like my beautiful bed, could be sold on and replaced when the time comes. Do I have the guts to really jettison significant portions of my life, and the stories that go with them, to give me a blank page on which to begin again or should I hold on to who I was in preparation for who I am to become?

I am trying to be rational about what I will and won’t need, yet ruthless about not keeping sentimental items in the belief that they are ‘important’. It’s hard and yet also freeing, easy but frustratingly restrictive.

Am I 30KG and a storage shed – more or less?