A few days after my last blog post, me Nan died. At the grand old age of 99, Mona Lillian Jones decided to move on to new pastures. She gave life a real good go, only giving up high heels at the age of 87, after a stern talking to by her doctor about them being a trip hazzard! Obviously I've thought about her a lot over the last few weeks, an amazing lady, though typical of her time. Bringing up six kids without mod cons, in her tiny three bedroom home, never ceased to amaze me. Even more so since I became a parent myself.
Her death made the last line of my blog seem very poignant. It kept resonating. "You're more likely to be remembered for the person you were, than the house you lived in." Because during the last few weeks, several things have happened that have made me revisit this idea and question the role of household stuff.
The grandchildren have shared memories of visits to see Nan as kids. My fondest memory is lying on her heavily patterned red rug, leafing through her collection of catalogues for hours. Other cousins have remembered the spotty plastic beakers we always drank 'pop' out of; the crinkle chip cutter we made Saturday tea with; the smell of her geraniums as you walked in through her door; her collection of brass and how it sparkled on the fire place; and most of all, the rotating tin date display that sat right next to the Telly (TV / Television to you non UK northern types). It was the ultimate privilege to be given the duty of flipping over the disk to generate the new date. Heaven forbid if you touched it any other time.
All of us remembered something different and with it an attachment to a random item. Nothing expensive. Nothing important. Nothing grand. Just everyday items. What has become clear, is that they are everything in creating a connection to a memory of our time with our Nan.
How we visited is interesting too. Yes we'd walk in through the back door (that had a very distinct noise), through the kitchen to sit in the lounge. We'd go to the bathroom out the back if we needed to. We could explore the garden that was crammed with plants. But we never went upstairs or in the front room without asking. And then you needed good reason. And as for the cellar, that was completely out of bounds. I went down there two years ago for the first time. She'd moved out and with the house up for sale it was the last opportunity to do it. Even then it didn't feel right.
Anyhow, the items associated to the memories that we so lovingly recalled had been in her house for years. Infact, since we were born, starting 50 years ago. Every visit, her house would be practically the same. We'd do the same things, with the same items, in the same room. Although the 16 grandchildren were rarely at Nans house at the same time, the fact we shared the same space over and over again in our separate visits links us together. The repetition created a tradition, almost a ceremony. And with this the creation of solid, clear, fond and deep memories. And a sense of place. And a sense of calm. Of course things changed over time, but so gradually you hardly noticed.
So when last weekend I put up the Christmas tree with my two kids, I just loved to hear the talk between Miss Nine and Master Seven as they tinsel bombed the tree. "I remember this." "Look, here's the star you made in Prep." "This one is my favourite." "Where's the bluebird?" "Who bought us this fairy?"
But with the delight, came the dismay. It made me question, what are we doing with our interiors? As we alter and update our interiors with such fervor are we loosing the opportunity to create lasting memories for our kids and their kids. As we redecorate rooms, change furniture and accessories are we erasing triggers to remember good times. And with that do we loose our sense of place and being?
I don't know what the answers are. I guess time will tell. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we should cease all renovation and redecoration to allow for the growth of memories. I think that the improvements you do should be considered, necessary and even subtle. Consider repeating certain features or retaining key pieces. Make an effort to keep items you use regularly. There's so many ways to keep the memories building as you create beautiful homely spaces for you and your family and friends. Key to this is slowing down the interior turnover.
You certainly will be remembered for the person you were, rather than the house you lived in. But what you have in your home evokes memories for those dear ones you leave behind.
PS - Apologies for melancholy blog. Normal service resumed next time.