Precious objects, even more precious memories

ClayMemories

My daughter – who’s a great believer in the ‘If I’m told not to do something, well that’s just an invitation to do so‘ philosophy – always makes a bee-line for these two clay figures whenever she comes in to my office.

She knows their history, knows that my Mum passed them to me when we were staying with her when we were in England this time two years ago. She knows they sat on my Gran and Grandad’s mantelpiece, in pride of place, from the time I made them (when I was seven) until the time their house was sold, when they were both no longer with us.

She sits and holds them in her tiny chubby hands – despite being told not to pick them up because they’re very precious – not because she’s disobedient (she isn’t, at all) but because, I’m sure, she wants to feel close to this part of her story, her family, her roots.

I often find her sitting there, at my work desk, clutching them, rocking and singing to the little hedgehog, stroking it’s back, or watering plants that have sprung up in the little garden she’ll have made around the house.

Isn’t this why we all keep mementos? To feel close. To try to feel the love, the care, the joy that must have been poured in to these objects or obtained from having these objects close?

It breaks my heart to see her sitting there, singing away to her heart’s content, in this little world of her own making, transported, as she is in those moments, to wherever and whatever it is she’s seeking.

I watch her and I remember. The memories come thick and fast, at random, books being pulled off shelves in my brain, archival material retrieved at the speed of light, neurones firing, hormones releasing, emotions flooding.

I remember sitting in my favourite teacher’s class, Autumn in the air, the thought of making our way over to the kiln later not only a thrill because we’d never used the kiln before but a comfort because I was sure it’d be warm on the outside too. I remember scratching my initials in to the bottom of both of them, fit to burst because I was so proud of myself.

I remember the sight of the white slatted kiln shelves, everyone’s creations lovingly placed on top and then slid inside for the kiln to magically do its work. Disappointment all round that they wouldn’t be ready for that class, eased somehow by the satisfaction of knowing that if we waited patiently, we’d see them soon enough.

I remember racing in to the classroom the next week (the air even chillier still) and being shocked that my hedgehog’s beady black eyes (that I’d been so proud of when I painted the glaze on) had run whilst being absolutely thrilled by the blue of the door. I carried them both home later, walking on air, so proud of myself. The bubbles and patterns in the glaze endlessly fascinating to me, I kept them at the side of my bed for an age, just staring at them for hours and hours (it seemed), amazed that I’d made them and that they were so beautiful. 

Beautiful enough to be given as Christmas gifts to my Gran and Grandad. Each one wrapped carefully, one for my Gran (Mr. Hedgehog, as he came to be known) and one for my Grandad (the house).

I remember the first time I saw them on their mantelpiece. I couldn’t possibly have been any happier. My Grandad had stuck a bit of cotton wool in the chimney “…so the people inside don’t get chilly” (with a wink). It didn’t for a second even register that it was cotton wool: it was, to me, simply magic that my little house had smoke coming out the chimney!

Every time I’d visit my Gran and Grandad, right through school, right through all my University years, there they’d sit, Mr. Hedgehog and my little house, on their mantelpiece. I’d notice, and note, them every visit: a mark of my Gran and Grandad’s love for me, that they’d keep these clay crafts, always, always with the smoke coming out of the chimney.

Fast forward to my Mum, one evening we were staying with her, calling me upstairs whilst Coronation Street was on (“Must be something important” I remember thinking). Placing a little velvet bag in my hands, watching my face as I opened it. I still remember her face. She couldn’t talk, but the tears said it all: these should be in your house now.

They were transported back with us, in my hand luggage, through Stansted, Frankfurt and onwards across an ocean (the emotional distance being far, far longer than any physical distance we travelled those two days).

I felt them, felt the comforting weight of them, every step of the way. A tactile reminder of the love I knew would support me in the difficult times ahead.

They sit on my desk now, just to the left of where I work. I hadn’t put the fire on in the house when I first took them out but, a few days later, imagine my happiness when I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, smoke coming out of the chimney!

When I asked her about it later, she said, “Mama, they can’t get cold, you know” and then, “Mama, why do you think Mrs. Hedgehog is crying? Do you think it’s because she knows you miss home?”

Two tiny, seemingly insignificant, objects.

Two treasures beyond all worth.

Binding the past with the present and giving hope for the future.

Helen xxx

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20 thoughts on “Precious objects, even more precious memories

  1. Carolyn says:

    What a beautiful post, Helen! I love the smoke from the chimney. I was chatting with a friend yesterday and we were talking about objects and memories. Her father is still alive but her mum and both of her husband’s parents have died and she was saying about how precious the objects they owned during their lives are to her. Residing within them is a time that can’t ever be had again other than in her memories. And that is why it is sometimes so hard to give ‘stuff’ away, isn’t it? The objects add tangibility – evidence – to what is otherwise only in our minds.

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    • iwillbloom says:

      Hi Carolyn, glad you liked the post. Oh yes, these objects are so precious, aren’t they? Absolutely, they encapsulate a time we can’t ever get back other than in memories, and seeing them definitely makes the memories come flooding back. How wonderful is that, really?! But I’d say that there definitely needs to be distance: when my Dad died, I remember being absolutely mortified/paralysed when I happened across his glasses and his wallet. It was too soon. It’s still, actually, too raw for me to see such personal things of his (even after nearly 16 years) but there are some things of his that do bring me great comfort. Helen xxx

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  2. juliekirk says:

    A gorgeous read. I’m so pleased you had them with you on your way back – bringing them back will be quite the return journey!

    Sort of related … just this week I’ve had my love of pocket talisman rekindled … I kind of have ideas about spreading the companionship which may or may not involve trying to find bulk supplies of plastic zebras …

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    • iwillbloom says:

      Hia J, glad you liked the post…and, yes, bringing them back will be quite the return journey! Oh, I can’t wait to see what you’re planning for the little plastic zebras…(I’m definitely up for receiving one, for comfort….). H xxx

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  3. Good grief Helen! Making me want to cry! What a gorgeous post. Your writing is stunning. I so felt it all reading about the hedgehog and cottage with the chimney. It is so precious. It’s crazy how little things bring so much comfort. Little things that have meaning and are tied to a place and time of safety and joy and home. I’m always surprised by how attached my clients get to my “owl lamp” or a silly squishy ball but I think it’s grounding to them. It’s a safe space for them. When they leave I have them pick out a rock or wooden shape to take with them and write or paint a word on it that brings them comfort. They literally love their little rocks. I can’t blame them. I have two rocks by my bedside that say “tenacity” and “worthy” and they bring me lots of comfort. oxoxox

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    • iwillbloom says:

      Hia Heather, oh you. Thanks so much for reading! And, yes, I absolutely agree that it’s the little things that can sometimes hold the most powerful memories (and memory-joggers). It’s great that you have things that are so grounding for your clients….and what a great idea, asking them to take something home with them. I remember using the worry dolls (from Peru or Bolivia?) for a time when I was at University…you assign each of your worries to a little doll, before bed, the idea being that the doll carries the worry during the night. It’s a silly idea, really (and of course now I ask for help from Him) but I remember it did bring me such comfort. Love your words: tenacity and worthy. Great stuff. Helen xxx

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  4. carlybenson says:

    Your writing here is beautiful, Helen- and such a lovely story. I loved all the little details like the smoke from the chimney. It’s so comforting to have little things like that to remind us of special people and happy memories. xxx

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  5. Zoe Rose says:

    Beautiful,beautiful. And I love your new header which I’ve only just spotted!

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  6. Rosie's Cottage says:

    Helen, you made me cry! what a beautiful post! I completely understand I have so many little treasures that would mean little to anyone lese but mean the world to me, hugs xx

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    • iwillbloom says:

      Hia Rosie, oh my…sorry…! They’re the really special things, aren’t they? The ones that only mean something, so personal, to us. Hugs right back at ya…Helen xx

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  7. Joy Lenton says:

    Helen, you have really shared your heart here with a story that has woven itself into the hearts of your readers as well. Simply beautiful, poignant storytelling! Such a gift you have, my friend. A loving momento for your family and pretty impressive craft work too for the young child you were. Your creativity is evident all round. Xx 🙂

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  8. This post brought tears to my eyes. So precious Helen. You write so well, about the way moments…or in this case an object… can so effectively bring us back to another time and dig up such emotion. They truly are the treasures that are priceless and worth so much more than some fancy material thing.

    But your sweet Little’s comments at the end completely broke me. Cozy wishes and blessings to you all – from my home to yours. 😉

    xoxo

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    • iwillbloom says:

      Hia Carrie, oh you, I’m so sorry I made you cry….it was one of those pieces that just sort of wrote itself and that I felt I needed to write. Blessings for you and yours too; I’m loving seeing Autumn appearing around your beautiful home…..Helen xxx

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  9. alexa says:

    Very beautifully and poignantly written, Helen – and how wonderful that your Mum kept the very things which nourish you and presciently gave them to you, to see you through the next few years … And that you allow your own little girl to have a connection with them too, which will last her her whole life long. A hedgehog and a house – what wonderful metaphors these might be for you at this point! I have a tinge of sadness of my own – for my parents kept nothing of what I made or owned, and threw everything out bar a few certificates …

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    • iwillbloom says:

      Alexa, thanks for your comment. I hadn’t thought about the hedgehog and the house being metaphors but yes, you’re absolutely correct! I’m so sorry to hear your parents didn’t keep the things you made or owned…I recently found out that my Mum has lost a whole bunch of the letters my Gran wrote to me whilst I was at University and that was an awful blow – very difficult to deal with emotionally and mentally. [So I know how painful that is]. Helen

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  10. Gabriele says:

    I am moved by your lively story.

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