Week 3 of the Great Cake* Experiment
The Art of Hoarding. The bane of many an overstuffed wardrobe, groaning attic, dusty garage and open-me-at-your-peril cupboard under the stairs, particularly in homes of a certain age. How many of us have at some point or another waded through a cold (or stiflingly hot) attic, watched warily on either side by rows of dusty, neglected boxes secured with parcel tape, hastily scribbled notes on the side, closed lids protecting their long-forgotten, musty contents? Who among us has not rifled through a crammed wardrobe full of relics from a younger age; impulse buys hanging, abandoned, labels still attached waiting in hope for that day their buyer will lose those stubborn “couple of pounds”? Time meanders on, and with it dust gathers and memories fade in these dark nooks and crannies of our homes and memories.
Spring arrives, and with it, the spring-cleaning enthusiasts. “It’s time to freshen up!” they cry. “Reclaim some living space!” “Allow energy to flow through your home!” “Out with the old!” And wearily, you may pick up your duster and your vacuum cleaner, and all the various paraphernalia, grimly determined to do a “good clear-out” and gain yourself some new space to eh, put more stuff in.
You begin, and you begin well. Before you know it, you’ve filled a black sack for the charity shop. You’re not sure about that jacket you just put in there, but you’ll leave it there for now – it’s a size too small after all, and besides, you’ve nothing that matches it. Be ruthless! Corduroy is SO three years ago. You add – not before administering a tender lingering caress – the shoes you wore to your debs that years ago that never quite fit and resulted in some rather spectacular week-long blisters. You discover the dress you wore that night and you smile… you’re transported back to that magical flurry of hairspray, butterflies, poorly applied fake tan and teenage traumas where times, had you only known it, were so much simpler. You decide you can’t bear to part with it, and reinstate it in its rightful place. That dress cost you six months worth of pocket money and days of agonising, and besides, your daughter (still just a twinkle in her as-yet-nameless, faceless daddy’s eye) might just wear it some day….
You move on to the bookshelves, where shockingly, there are still mementoes of your schooldays. You make a mental note to clean more often. The first thing you stumble upon is a mix tape you made when you were 17, dating from those heady days of false IDs and badly applied makeup when you started “going out out”. You look for a cassette player, and realise you don’t possess one any more. Fortunately and perhaps unsurprisingly in a house of this nature, there’s one in the attic somewhere. So up you clamber, and before long you are a teenager again, lost in the strains of Robert Palmer and The Eurythmics while you wander around the nightclub for a “lap”, guarding your vodka and orange fiercely while keeping a firm eye from on a distance upon the then-object of your affections. (Growing up in a small town, it took the big hits of the late 90s a while to reach us). You listen to Madonna and remember the sheer gut-wrenching, heart-crushing devastation of seeing the aforementioned object kissing someone else behind a pillar. Horrifically, you discover a diary from the same era. A colour-bound, dog-eared document of utter cringe, a shrine to your innocence and teenage angst. You read it and dissolve in the utter hilarity/mortification of your own tiny, all-consuming dramas. You berate your 17-year old self for being so goddamn serious and sensitive. You resolve to share these pearls of wisdom also with your own daughter if the day comes. And you place that document back on the shelf, knowing that you can’t just coldly discard those words, those pages so full of feeling. And there it sits – your own unashamed self-obsession bound in those pages forever.
You rediscover notes and letters from school friends, crammed with laughter and innocence and references to the local heroes of the time. Had the local GAA players only known the depths of appreciation that existed for their many talents… Your school yearbook. Printed emails from college friends. Cards commemorating milestone birthdays. Your very first Valentine card, and dusty pressed remains of the first red rose you ever received. Mementoes of trips taken – sunny days on the train to Dublin – what an adventure – fuelled by soft drinks and nail polish fumes. Photographs – boxes and boxes of photographs – taken long before the days when digital took over. The charity shop bag, long abandoned, sits forlornly in the middle of the floor. Time passes.
You feel a little wistful when you realise that your own daughter may never have this simple pleasure. There’ll be no lovingly written notes and scribbled cartoons to be rediscovered, just texts and electronic social media messages, quickly relegated to the digital archives. She’ll probably never know the anticipation of collecting from the pharmacy a set of prints taken during the latest night out, praying that the one shot you wanted came out okay – oh, how we cursed the automatic flash! – or leafing through a long-forgotten photo album. She will never know the sheer frustrating agony of waiting hours to tape a song off the radio, only to be scuppered by the DJ playing a request in the middle of the last verse. And you smile as you replace those precious keepsakes of a bygone era, and realise there’s a lot to be said for hoarding.
Especially now you’ve heard that corduroy will be HUGE this Autumn.