One of my current projects is helping my mother to down-size to move into a retirement facility much closer to me here in Durban. I am thrilled that she is now at a place in her life where she is happy to move and is even excited about the prospect of less chores and more social time.
We have started working through her cupboards and other storage spaces to decide what she must let go and what can move with her. While this sorting process is partly sad because it represents the end of a chapter of her life, it is also a special time of sharing the past and family memories. It has reminded me of the much more active and busy person my mother once was. Always a homemaker, she was a meticulous seamstress, making all of our clothes until she taught me to sew when I was twelve. Sadly, poor eyesight and arthritis have halted her sewing efforts. I have now inherited her button collection (I couldn’t resist sorting them by colour when I got home!!) as well as fabric off-cuts which I hope one day to make into a memory quilt.
It is tempting to keep many more of her things for sentimental value, but I don’t really need most of them, and I don’t want to clutter up my home. Sharing memories is far more important than things.
If anything is worth keeping though, it is photographs. My grandmother (who was not at all sentimental) threw away almost all of her photographs when she moved to a retirement home in Howick, much to our dismay. Many priceless photographs of her growing up in Durban in the 1910s and 20s are lost forever. The ones that are left are treasured.
It is also worth holding onto family records such as birth certificates, family trees, and any family stories or histories that have been recorded. Last week my mother gave me the newspaper clipping of my grandparents wedding in Durban in 1934. Its elaborate descriptions of the outfits worn by the bride, her attendants, and the mothers make for amusing reading! But the clipping’s deeper value to me is the reminder that our family history in Durban goes back quite a way. Reading their story strengthens my bond with my city. And I am sure that my mother’s move back to Durban after many years will also be a joy to her because of the happy memories of her childhood here.