If ever destruction were to course through my life and leave charred remains or water logged bits of life in its wake, there are a few things I would choose to save. This list favours my father’s artefacts but that is because my mother is thankfully still counted among the living. Provided Mr, the kids and my furbabies are safe I would choose to save the following list of treasures:
1. My Dad’s clothes. These were not his every day clothes. That’s not entirely true, he found a way to wear these brightly coloured dress shirts, his baby pink button ups and the numerous gold lamé dress shirts with the Chinese dragons roaring almost every day. These were the clothes that he felt most comfortable wearing. He had colour combinations that he loved (pink, black and gold or red, black and gold) and they are evident in so many of the shirts. There is the brilliant red cape that prompted my brother to hold it up and mutter, “What the hell is this?” but I was there when he picked out satin the same shade of red as crushed cherries. I couldn’t possibly let that box go, most importantly because when I gingerly pull the flaps apart, his scent is still trapped in the fibres and in a way, my dad is still here.
2. My Mom’s painting. I’ve always thought of the painting of a wine jug, partially peeled oranges and wine glasses to be my mom’s best work, even though there are seven years of work between its creation and now. It has travelled with me to the small house in Windsor Ontario where Mr and I fell in love and all the way across the country to Nova Scotia. It is currently on my dresser in the space that is usually reserved for a mirror. I don’t mind scurrying to the bathroom down the hall to fix my hair, I like the painting being this close each day.
3. My father’s Yuletide Teapot. An avid collector of fine china, my dad sipped his tea each night from a fragile tea cup, the potent tea poured from a well-loved pot, each from his beloved Tulip Time collection. The Yuletide pot is one of his one-offs, two tea cups replete with saucers trail after it in the cabinet. I remember when he bought this gorgeous piece of work at Shanfield-Meyers, an institution in our family and most definitely in my father’s life. I remember the feel of the picnic table against my skinny legs at dusk while he poured tea into a teacup for me, out of this quintessential Christmas teapot in the middle of summer.
4. My computer and the external hard drive: This one is not as silly as it sounds. The external hard drive and my computer collectively hold all the photographs and videos of my children since they were born. Certainly we have some hard copies but the video of Miss N dancing for her Nanny who was on vacation and the photos of both children dressed in ball gowns and my heels cannot be replaced.
5. My tattered copies of The Edible Woman and Jitterbug Perfume. Each of these books transformed my life and helped me realize that there are approximately one hundred million ways to look at life. Each is valuable in their own right and we ought to question everything, even whether or not these books are valuable. (They really are, you can question it but don’t doubt it.)
6. My wedding ring. I don’t wear it around the house; with two kids in need of booger-wiping, food preparation and general aptitude for making their mother pick up gross things I wash my hands a lot, and when I do I take off my wedding ring.
7.My Laura Secord Cookbook. Another gem I inherited from my father, his name and the date he received or bought this class is scrawled on the front page in pencil. His handwriting is so eerily similar to my own that I can feel the curve of the pencil in my own hand.
8. My leather bound journal from Italy. This book holds the first clues that I was going to take my writing seriously. Honest and brutal, the cream coloured pages, thick enough to be vellum hold many of my secrets. It also has the charm of being bought in a small leather goods store on a side street in Florence, a treasure from one of the afternoons my father and I parted to enjoy our own exploits while we were on vacation.
Tell me, what could you not bear to have soaked with buckets of rain water or charred to miserable crisps? I sometimes think of it, particularly since my mom’s childhood home lost its second storey to fire in the 1960s. The part of the story I’ve always loved, besides the part about the farming community coming together to put out the fire or my grandfather’s refusal to sue the fire department for not knowing how to work their own fire truck, “You don’t sue your neighbour”, is that there are still photographs in my mom’s photo albums that have charred edges.