We all turn into our parents eventually, it’s said, and we don’t even know it’s happening. A friend of mine is barely middle-aged, yet he thinks pop music is too loud and car-washing is a great way to spend Sundays.
Memories come rushing back as I look through her watercolours. She was an artist whose signature works were scenes of whimsical cats. Obviously I’m keeping all of those as well as the photo albums, but the rest of her things are frankly dire.
Take for instance the collection of plastic garden chairs. Mum didn’t have a garden. They were her armchairs. At the desk there’s a diner-style chair from the 1950s which was probably usable before rust set in. In the airing cupboard I find a stack of tablecloths and other gorgeous linens, some of it unstained. And the lovely china pieces she talked about turn out to be actually in pieces, held together by Araldite and optimism.
At this point I need to break for a snack. In the kitchen there’s about a year’s supply of porridge oats. Funny I used to hate the stuff. Today it fills the gap perfectly.
It takes me a while to locate the blue and white porcelain plates my Mum always told me were so valuable. I handle the first one with care, as you do when it’s a rare artefact from the Yuan dynasty. My fingers tremble as I trace the intricate design. I turn the plate over. A little golden sticker says ‘Made in Japan’.
I sigh. I need to go to the shops for more bin liners. The weather’s turned chilly, so I pop on an overcoat of Mum’s. Normally I wouldn’t be seen dead in any of her old threads, but this coat is cosy.
When I get back from the shop, I tackle the rest of the clothes. The belts are fit only for the skip, and there are five identical pairs of shoes which I won’t even bother trying. There are however three handbags worth keeping, and a watch that looks better than mine.
I set it to the right time and put it on my wrist. Surprisingly it is just the right size.
In the same box there are earrings with little lions on them. Though they’re not at all my thing, they’re cute and I’m a Leo. Better hang onto them.
The trousers and skirts are another story. My mother was never tall, and then she developed what Roald Dahl called ‘the dreaded shrinks’, known to doctors as advanced osteoporosis. All her trousers had had to be shortened repeatedly. Looking at them now, it’s clear they’d be no use to anyone, unless maybe they’re after Bermuda shorts.
A cardigan catches my eye. It’s not at all bad if you overlook the frayed cuffs and a couple of missing buttons. Hell, I can fix that. The cardi is merino wool and a lovely yellow colour.
I put it on, and get a shock when I look in the mirror.
Next I come across a battered little suitcase. It would be so useful. Trouble is, the cat likes it too.
Now the tartan shopping trolley in the corner beckons. Just the thing! Why give myself backache lugging stuff back from the supermarket every week when I could use a little trolley?
Now stop it, I tell myself sternly. I’m not nearly ready for that yet. Give it a while longer. Say another couple of weeks?