The secrets are here. I hadn’t realised how many. The abandoned dreams. Too many memories. Before this house I had moved four times in five years. I’d shed boxes full of University reading, notes, unworn clothes, outgrown toys. We could get the whole of our house and possessions in one small lorry, which seemed an achievement with two small children. When we moved to this house, the one we are leaving now, the attic was empty save for one lone suitcase abandoned by the previous tenant and an old water tank.
Now though. We put down boards , a ladder, for ease of access. When my husband left I was thankful that I could still get up there without step-ladder acrobatics and rafter balancing, not forgetting dire warnings from childhood about the risk of going through the ceiling. I could still find the Christmas decorations and the boys could set out race tracks or Playmobil cities with abandon.
The clutter crept. Things kept just in case. Old cases full of spare blankets and pillows. When the toys became obsolete I kept my favourites, like my mum before me, in case we needed them in the future for grandchildren, and because it is hard to let go.
There are boxes of photos, folders full of old lesson plans, books and books and books. Theology books from my years in ministry, teaching books, children’s books, from my own children and my own childhood. There are demi -jons and brewing buckets from summers when there was time to make wine, there are boxes full of cables, old game cassettes and DVDs. There are crates of Lego and a life size cut-out of Boba Fett.
Within the boxes I find a place card from my first wedding, a newspaper announcing the engagement of Prince Charles to Lady Diana, a map of the Falkland Islands my dad brought back from his tour there. I find the Bible my nanna gifted my grandfather when he was away during World War 2 and the trolley full of blocks which I pushed as I learned to walk.
This odd collection makes up my life. Much of it can be set aside. The essays and course notes have stayed undisturbed for ten years, the education books will be obsolete by now, there is no space to store excess bedding or the confusion of cables.
But the unpeeling, the dismantling, the decisions are uncomfortable. I feel raw and exposed. Many things remind me of a life I no longer live, a person who no longer lives in me, remnants of a different marriage, another family, a woman who did the right thing, stuck to the rules, a good girl. These objects are signs, clues, I am like an archaeologist of my own existence, this means she was dedicated to her teaching career, this shows us that in those days the family might be found camping, we see here signs of persistent and determined Christian practice.
The space is almost empty now. I have swept it clean. One box, one bundle at a time we have lowered the treasures and trash into the daylight, exposed them to scrutiny. They seem absurd, they drag up old stories, open old wounds. We have a room of boxes piled and ready for storage. I don’t know how I feel about leaving these things in a distant warehouse. I imagine the whispering in the darkness when the padlock has been fastened, the shutters drawn, the ghosts of memory rustling like leaf-litter, scattering to dust.