My sister and her husband have been doing sterling work – she being the only sibling still in England – to take care of matters involving my parents. While she ensures that my mother, whose mobility and eyesight are declining in tandem, has what she needs, she also recently rented a van to move boxes of my stuff from the attic of my father’s house before it is sold, to her place a couple of hours away. And being very diligent, she listed all the things she brought, and photographed a lot of it too.
I felt very poignant in response to this. Not the least part of it is not having been able to travel to England since I was there exactly two years ago, and thus missing being able to help with developments since. But more prominent was being reminded of the life I was leading twenty-plus years ago, in London. It’s not that I have ever really regretted moving to California, and right now I have no particular desire to return to live in the UK. When I packed those boxes up at the turn of the millennium, I am not sure I had much idea what their fate was going to be. I had offloaded many things, including all my furniture and other artefacts, and at least once since then I have winnowed out the remains, on my step-mother’s request; all the things that remains were what seemed important to keep ten years or so ago.
When I moved recently, I was able to trim some of my possessions here, which felt good, so perhaps it is just a matter of being reminded of the psychic weight of having things in storage. I can envision – assuming I have the time and leisure to do so – going through all these boxes one more time and maybe moving along books and CDs and kitchen wares. I hear that nineties fashion is in again, though I don’t know how ready I am to wear the same clothes as I was wearing back then. There are also boxes and albums of photogaphs, going back to the very first pictures I took at the age of eight with a camera my uncle gave me for my birthday. Perhaps some of it will get shipped back over here.
I am often aware, especially when I visit my old friends in England, that their lives have had a different continuity to mine – new relationships, new places to live, new jobs for sure, but within the same general part of the world. My life, as with that of any expatriate, is that of before and after, and not necessarily being able to hold both equally.