Thursday 20 September 2012

The past in a box...

So I’ve been sitting here, in my study, on the sofa, by the window, with the SP, with tears dribbling down my face.  And not just from the virus thingy.  I dunno why…(well, I do, but it’s not really important) but I opened up the wooden box that my brother had given me way back in the late sixties or very early seventies or thereabouts.  He’d been working in London with this guy who dealt in antiques (and who, incidentally, hung out with all kinds of major rock legends) and he gave it to me (my brother, not the guy, or the rock legends).  The box, that is. And it’s a bit of a memory chest…with stuff in it going way back. 

I haven’t looked in it for years but this morning I did.  And, oh my.  Such strange things; things I’d forgotten all about; letters from people that I haven’t read in…what?...forty years in some cases. Things like...
A photo of me and my sister with Father Christmas.  
A pic of me and my mum and the ridiculous dachshund, Bella, with the bald stomach (the dog). 
Invitations to 18th birthday parties, including one I designed for me and my (foster) sister’s joint party (the one which started off so well but ended in hilarious – in hindsight - disaster).  
Good luck cards, Congratulations on passing your driving test cards. Medals from the war. A rosette. Clippings from the local newspaper.  
My great-uncle’s indenture papers, his merchant seaman reports and his astronomical notebook.  
A Blow Monkeys’ single, with a large bite taken out of it. Why? Not a clue.
'Chin up' type postcards from friends...including one of Harrison Ford, which did make me smile.
And I read the letters – in this box mainly from my family.  My mother’s – practical, newsy, talking about animals and the weather, worrying about my manners and various coughs and colds and whether she should send me stamps and if I’d get a train back from somewhere or other because the petrol would cost £5 (obviously in the days when it was cheaper to travel by rail than car!).  My sister’s – well, just the one, laughing at how rubbish she was at writing letters and telling me about the Sunday joint (the meat one). And so weird, hearing her talk about her baby (my eldest nephew) and her bump, my second eldest nephew who hadn’t been born then, not to mention their three younger siblings who were…where? 

And the funniest, loveliest letters of all, strangely enough, from my brother.  From when he first went to America to live.  A few years after our father died.  He’s one of those rare people who writes pretty much exactly the way he talks (unlike his emails which are terse and to the point, to put it mildly).  And one bit really struck me…

‘Janie. Bean. I’d like to hear how you’re feeling – not so much how you’re doing at school – I’m sure you’re doing as well there as you want to.  So tell me – it occurred to me that you kept most of those feelings to yourself.  So let me know if you feel you want to – otherwise it’s OK if you don’t want to?! (if you see what I mean).’
I wonder what I replied?  I wonder if I did reply?  Cos he was right.  I did keep feelings to myself.  Always did. Always do pretty much.  Which is probably wise in many ways, but equally probably not very healthy.  Cos when you suppress feelings, they sort of stagnate and have a  nasty tendency to go bad.  And that, I wonder, is why I've been so ill?  Maybe it's time to get out my paints again.  Cos, though I never say or write what I really feel - I can't ever lie in paint. 

And then, at the very bottom, I found this - one of several 'Biff Kards' (anyone remember them?) and it made me laugh and laugh... 
So, tell me...have you got a box like this?  :-)


Zoë said...

No :(

Anonymous said...

Oh yes. My first box was my Privit box (It had a handwritten notice in childish handwriting saying "Privit Keep Out". Each subsequent box has been called the Privit Box ever since.

The first was a green and gold Easter Egg box from Prestat. Quite big and very solid (I think I may be giving my age away here). I still have the remains of the box and the notice on the top but it did eventually die. It was replaced by a camphor box from Hong Kong chosen very carefully by me aged about 12 and irritating the hell out of my godmother who wanted to get home before the monsoon got even worse. Finally that box became too small and I now have two Privit Boxes, the final one was a simple box bought by my husband at the turn of the millenium. I have photos, locks of hair, odd knick knacks, the last bit of my eldest daughter's "rag". Worthless to anyone else, priceless to me.

Oddly enough I was sorting through my old school trunk yesterday which is used to keep diaries, letters, cards, programmes etc - it is FULL :o But I can't part with it.


Rachel Selby said...

I've got one :)

LeeAnn at Mrs Black's said...

Everyone ought to have a box like this! Amazing what memories & emotions they can bring back form long hidden places. Mine is in an old cheap yellow suitcase my Grandmother bought for me when I left the US 33 years ago. I suppose your box is from Paul Reeves? Just a guess but he dealt in antiques and designed clothes for the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page amongst others. He still has a shop, not open to the public.

Exmoorjane said...

@Zoe - I dunno, hon, sometimes it's best to leave the past right behind, huh? xx

@Gillie - Privit box? Love it! I had a privit diary once - one of those ones with a padlock... :) Up in the loft are three boxes for my son...with all his notes and wotnots...birth cards, my diary of his early months and so forth. A whole trunk? Crikey... :)

@Rachel - now why doesn't that surprise me? :)

Exmoorjane said...

@Minerva - :) No, I don't think it was Paul Reeves..was a guy called Brian, if I recall...he had a houseboat on the Thames and hung out with Clapton, Hendrix etc. I think the antiques were a bit of a sideline... ;)

Nicola Vincent-Abnett said...

I've left the past behind, wholesale, twice in my adult life. I don't plan to do it again, but I wouldn't rule it out. I have nothing that goes back further than twenty years, and both of my children were already born.

I am, by nature, a purger.

Feelings aren't always for sharing; they are apt to trouble others rather more than they trouble the self.

Best love,


Exmoorjane said...

@Addy - I hear you and I'm with you. It surprised me to find so much had survived my periodic purges. And yes, re feelings...not to be shared with others...but released, I feel, for oneself.

DD's Diary said...

Gosh, no, I don't have a box .... not sure I want one in a way, might get a bit Pandora if you know what I mean. Yours is fab though x

Tee said...

I have a box. Or two.

Nicola Vincent-Abnett said...

God yes! Purging feelings has got to be a good thing. That colonic isn't sounding so bad, now, is it?

Oh dear, now I've made myself laugh.


Frances said...

Jane, first let me thank you for those birthday wishes. How can I possibly be so old now?

And, since I am, of course I have such a box. I've got multiples, devoted to all sorts of memory categories. As you know, I grew up in a culture that worshiped glories of past history, and the evidence was in the hearts, but also on lots of paper.

As I escaped that particular geography, I did not manage to escape some of the archiving tendencies. (You also know that amongst my professional history roles, archivist can be claimed.)

Nowadays, I have begun to take a more strict view to these bits and pieces, and think that some of them will not see the new year.


Greta said...

Funny that you've written this. My sister died two weeks ago. We went to New Zealand for the funeral and to comfort my devastated brother-in-law. While we were there, we opened up a storage room where all my sister's household goods had been stuffed very suddenly, when they had to leave their house to go to a nursing home. The detritus of a life, all piled in disarray in this storage room. We were looking for personal papers but nothing had been organised, nothing sorted, nothing proper;y packed. A lather, a rusting wheelbarrow, tools sat next to a water bed (empty) a box marked fragile that rattled, a dressing table, a little santa sleigh with reindeer. In drawers we found letters from me (opened), a New Idea' from 1975, hand-written tables for a football tipping competition... It was sad. And photos - pictures of them when they were young and fit. Not like your box, but it reminded me. I've wiped a tear from my eye. Thanks.