Resounding Questions

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We Are Made of Memories

I spent the weekend at my parents’ house, helping them to declutter their loft. It’s been sixteen years since we moved into that house, bringing with us the tumble-jumbled collection of our lives. Books by the kilo, Chinese and Thai dinner sets, Burmese bibles, African masks, Iranian carpets and rosewood tables. School reports written about us children, school reports written by us children, barely remembered attitudes to the world around us. Pictures of friends fondly remembered, trips made and Christmasses posed for.

Britain being Britain, the house we moved into was never going to have the floorspace that we had in Asia, and over the years sofas and carpets were sold and replaced, pictures faded, and books dispersed to the wider family, schools and charity shops. Some things ended up in the loft. Camping gear, not as frequently nor as harshly used as in the rainforests, still taken out yearly for festivals, and seasonal decorations making their migration from loft to ground floor during the cold winter months.

The house has never been cold, nor never entirely warm, and my folks are availing of the government’s laudable Green Deal to get the loft lagged. This means for the paltry sum of £15, they’re getting full insulation in the attic including the ventilation for existing lights. That’s not the full cost though; you need to go up and haul down all the squirreled items, and then take down the loft boards.

In my pockets right now are shards of wood left over from levering up the screwed down boards with a yellow crowbar, alongside my crumpled 9th grade school schedule fallen out of a box of schoolwork. I’ve gotten better at saying goodbye to these small items of my former life, although I’m still holding onto this one.

One of the first things taken down on Sunday was the paper mache tiger that had spent the first 10 years of its life in my sister’s room, having been bought from a roadside shop on Sathorn Road in Bangkok next to my dad’s office. He also brought me a zebra, a companion from another continent for the tiger, and of similar size: shoulder high to my 6 year old self, and as long as him lying down. My sister no longer wants the tiger, and so it ends up in the car, and then to the tip. My dad comes back chuckling, and with a picture. The jovial guys at the council tip have taken the tiger to the top of a hill, in the snow, where it is attacking: my zebra.

I didn’t know he had gone.

My companion for so many evenings, wearing a chinese hat stuffed full of collected pins, from birthday cards, jam jars and conferences. Quietly helping me through the transition to Malaysia and then England, smiling and proudly wearing lanyards from 10 Mean Fiddler weekend festivals and other gigs as I grew into a man. Just gone. I didn’t get to say goodbye and thank you.

It’s a silly feeling really – and the picture is great. It’s funny, a large tiger and zebra on top of a hill in the snow, duking it out. And for me it’s joyful. Those animals, carefully made by a Thai craftsperson over 20 years ago will end their lives as they started them: together. And they might even bring some more joy and happiness to the lives of others as they go to the tip, before being slushed down to paper for recycling. But as a person, I am made of memories. And because we have so many memories, the objects that help us hold onto the memories are part of us too. I’m a little sad.

Goodbye good friend, and ขอบคุณมากครับ.