Last update: 08-Dec-2013 4:18 am
Sunday, December 08, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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How to help hoarding Granny
Do you have a stack of old newspapers in a corner that is taller than yourself because one day you might paint the drawing room that pretty bougainvillea colour you saw in a magazine, and you might need a few pages to protect the floor, although you have not lifted a paintbrush in 20 years?
Have you never met a used plastic bag you did not like?
Is every drawer, cupboard, can, box, jar and thimble stuffed with loose coins, scraps of paper with phone numbers scribbled on them, expired medicine, old prescriptions, coils of twine, shoelaces, hairpins, buttons that were never re-attached, needles that were never threaded, and frayed, faded hair ribbons that no self-respecting five-year-old would ever touch?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are my grandmother and in need of an intervention.
Granny! Stop it! You are a hoarder and you will end up on some creepy reality TV show if you continue rescuing yesterday from the garbage heap of tomorrow.
The extended family converged on granny’s modest two-bedroom last weekend with mops and brooms and Clorox to get a headstart on the annual grumbling that goes something like this:
Me: “Ma, I am throwing out this old bag. It has a huge hole at the bottom.’’
Ma: “Bonterre! That is my market bag. I will sew it. I make that bag myself before you dream to born. Leave my bag alone, please.’’
Platang! Blutunk! Ping! Crunnkkk! That is the sound of me pitching out the empty jam jars, and stomping on the empty biscuit tins to reduce the chances of sneaky hands, still nimble despite the tracings of time, retrieving them for some vague use at a distant point in the undetermined future.
Ma: “Wait, that pot good.’’ Her voice reaches a high-pitched squeal, like when the air is suddenly let out of a balloon.
Me: “It has no handle.’’
Ma: “So? I hold it with cloth.’’
Me: “You could set yourself on fire that way.’’
Ma: “Bltsitui-rerre-prhualik-erarekelealala.’’ Or anyway, something that sounded like that because I don’t understand patois, especially when it is being rattled off at rocket speed.
By the time everything is mopped and polished and the accumulations of the last year are cleared away, the conversation inevitably gets around to how young people these days don’t appreciate the value of things and want everything new, new, new and maybe she too should be thrown out because she has been old for a long time.
And then, we all shuffle out to the porch with our heads bowed, and we feel like malignant boils for making her discard her memories—the chipped enamel cup she always took her cocoa tea in; the wad of crumbling, yellowed receipts from the Cocoa and Coffee Board when $50 for a harvest was good money; the rusty three-line cutlass she used to wield like a badjohn if any dotish, no-count, pothound man dared trespass on her doorstep; the few inches of now torn lace she used to wear in her hair for Sunday services.
But that weekend, I went too far.
Behind the wardrobe I drew out a flowered pillowcase and undid the knot. Inside a rusted shortbread biscuit tin was a folded white foolscap page wrapped in tracing paper in a brown envelope. It bore the most elegant script in blue ink and a red 12-cent stamp with the image of the young Queen Elizabeth.
“Dear Sir,” it began. “Your granddaughter and I are in love.’’
I stopped breathing. “We ask no more happiness than to be joined in the bonds of Holy Matrimony, to which end, I earnestly solicit your consent to her hand in marriage.’’
It was the letter that the besotted suitor had written to Granny’s own father, asking to marry Granny’s only daughter. Out of that marriage, came the multitudes, a rowdy, happy, impossibly racially mixed and culturally blended family.
And there I was, trying to declutter the life of a 99-year-old matriarch, careless of the history in her old envelopes and biscuit tins.
The thought that I might have accidentally thrown out the priceless letter filled me with such dread that I began to cry long, wet tears.
Sorry, Granny. I am putting back everything where I found it.
Until next year.
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