My youngest daughter returned my old sewing box to me yesterday – no pressure, she said, but I’m re-organising and need it gone. It’s been sitting unused but very much loved in her house for the last 18 years, and inside it I found random buttons and threads and zips and fasteners just as I’d left them, and a small bundle of bright fabric remnants that brought me up short. Each remnant is a ghost of a memory of something long gone, kept by me at the time for sentimental reasons, kept intact all these years by my daughter for the same reason, and so my old sewing box is an impromptu time-capsule of sorts.
The sudden reappearance of my old sewing box into my life symbolises – encapsulates, perhaps – how strange I’m feeling about a lot of things at the moment. Remnants and snippets of the past keep catching me unawares, an odd kind of double-exposure deja-vu image of the vibrant present superimposed on old faded memories of almost 20 years ago, or sometimes even longer. I pass someone in the street and think – oh, I’m sure I know them from somewhere – and realise afterwards we knew each other decades ago, in what feels like another lifetime.
I was in a busy shop the other day, and overheard an older woman talking animatedly to another two older women about retiring from work, and booking cruises, and general chit-chat of that ilk. I recognised her voice, and looking more closely saw she was one of my lecturers from college 22 years ago, but much older and greyer. Had I not heard her voice, I might not have recognised her straight away. And in another shop I was served by someone I used to work with over 40 years ago – in my first job as a Saturday girl while I was still at school.
What takes me aback is that I see elderly people I remember as being middle-aged, and middle-aged people I remember as being young – everyone looks so much older these days, and with a shock I realise so do I. Moving back home to where I grew up and spent my younger adult life after nigh on two decades is such an odd feeling – I feel like me but not-me, the same but different, young and old all at the same time, and it’s quite disconcerting.
So as I was looking through all the saved remnants in my sewing box, I realised that I want to make myself a patchwork cushion with all these random fabric memories interspersed with more up-to-date scraps of bits and pieces collected more recently, create for myself one cohesive piece, a mosaic of myriad memories, an eminently practical use of the past and the present to then carry on forward into my future.
And I realise too that perhaps I need to do that with my whole life, remove the closed-off compartments in my mind that make it so decidedly ‘then and now’ inside my head, and create one cohesive ‘me’ that transverses all mental barriers…