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BOX — a fiction by ollie francis
When my mother passed away, we started putting everything into that box. Unread letters, disused nicknacks, unshown photographs. Memories that weren’t mine. It was a way to organise it all; to sift the important things from those merely left behind. I had suspected we would need more space than a single box — a life didn’t feel like it should be able to be contained in so small a space — but one, single box was enough.
The clothes had already been shifted out to the local OXFAM. All that remained were the personal items we took with us when we first moved her in. Everything the charity shops wouldn’t want to take.
We made our way around the room, taking things from the sideboard, the bedstead, the bookshelf: A cracked figurine of Saint Sebastian; A torn copy of a King James.
I had thought that sifting through it all would bring back memories. And, of course, most of the time it did. You can’t pick up a photograph of yourself as a child without it meaning something to you — although, more often than not, I can’t remember it being taken. Even my own face seems to belong more to the mantlepiece in No.72 Greswort Lane than it does to my own past.
But there were things among it all — Things that had a history nothing to do with me nor the mother I knew. And yet, they were her’s. Not my mother’s, but Hannah’s.
A shell, taken from a beach or found in a souvenir shop, I have no idea, but kept in her bedside cabinet, second drawer down, among her socks.
A letter with a handwritten address, spider lettering; when opened, thanking her for a wonderful time in Cornwall from a woman called Joan. I have no idea who she is and there is no return address. The paper is ageless, undated and preserved between Gulliver’s Travels and an Edgar Allen Poe.
There is a whole life that has been lost here. Not just my mother’s; not just the person I knew — but an entirely different existence. I wonder how much of it there was left before the end. I wonder if she too moved in when we, guilt-ridden, set up her room and waved her goodbye for the first time in a new home. These remains tell me she was still there while the staff sat with her that day — maybe not all of her, but a part, at least. A memory. That broken figurine, still kept despite its chips and cracks.
I wonder if she stayed any longer than we did.
Originally published on Tumblr
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