by Fiona Perry
A collection of mementoes to stimulate long term memory and a sense of identity in dementia patients.
A Sutton Seed Packet. Here you are pop-up book deep in cottage familiars
creaking their delirious roots into blood-warm, well-tended soil. Dotted amongst
them, exotic botanicals, the joyful offspring of slips pilfered from National Trust Gardens.
A Copy of St Augustine’s Imitation of Christ. Winter is the time to fret and
look for answers to the unanswerable in late night embers and these pages. Kept
within reach on your bedside table, a compass to navigate the dark geometry of the mind.
A crochet needle belonging to your wife. Two lives enmeshed in thousands of interlocking
loops. The steadfast slipknot of her dutifulness securing an unbroken chain of family life. She lies with the peonies, icing-sugar-pink, you placed in her coffin. Loved until the end.
A wage slip. The final day of school. Your classmates are hurtling their books over the wall with abandon. You sit crying, bereft, on playground gravel. A bright twelve year old. Further education out of grasp. But labourer and factory worker, you will never waver from providing for your family.
A photo of Sloane Street. Greyhounds sleeping in front of the fire. Your sister brushing her hair in a wall mirror. Beyond the backdoor; the cluck and guttural groan of chickens; the promise of fruit bushes in bud. Every prayer and intercession a protective force field.
A CD of Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi. You are a teenager. O Mio Babinno Caro is playing on a neighbour’s radio. A startling new sound, it seeps through the bedroom wall and into your marrow. God is in music you would say. Puccini, Rachmaninov, Mozart. Passion, solace, elevation.
A pigeon’s life ring. Your father creates cages with old bicycle spokes, in which to keep and observe wild birds. You were always more interested in release than entrapment. A bird’s ability to find its way home, a life-long fascination.The commonplace turned miraculous.
A family bible. Your mother is dangerously ill. Your aunts are either side of you, holding a hand, teaching three year old you to count by climbing stairs in their house. One. Two. Three. Keep rising. Moving. Let go of their hands now.
Follow magnetic maps to your final destination. As you journey, lift this box high. Scoop and drop each of these totems like ballast from a hot air balloon.
You no longer have a need for them. Let them descend intact.
We are here to catch them. To carry them into the next generation.