My Box

By Helen Cormack

I have a box of treasures collected from all over: holidays, days out at the beach, nights out, presents brought from foreign parts by friends and family. It was an occupation to go through them on long winter nights and try to place the item in its context. Where? From whom? When? Or even on occasion, how did I come by this?

This shell from the beach at Shiskine the first year Bob and I were together, the feather Joe gave me when he was a little boy describing it as “like fairy wing, Mum,” ever so serious, a metal pyramid brought by a colleague from a business trip to Egypt. All in their own way totally useless: all in their own way totally useful in recalling a life.

But now, now I have had to move from my beloved home with its view of the sea and my books and belongings all around me to this place of magnolia walls and blond carpets, of tiled wet rooms and easy clean surfaces, where half of us can’t remember what we had for breakfast and the other half can only remember people and places from far away.

And my box? My box has been put in the wardrobe, high up where I cannot reach it from this chair.

“It won’t get lost up there, dearie,” said the fat care assistant with the blue streaked hair.

“But I would like it close by me,” I protested. “I like to look through my things.”

With Bob gone, Joe in Canada and my friends in places like this themselves, my days feel long without my memory box.

“Just ask when you want it,” says the thin one who smells of smoke and cheap perfume, “and we’ll get it for you.”

But there is always some reason why they can’t get it – about time for lunch, time for a nap, time to go and play bingo – God forbid – in the day room.

I play that game sometimes when you try to remember all the items on a tray and use my box like the tray but it’s not the same. I long for the feel of the feather, the smell of the shell, taste of metal on my tongue.

I wish Joe would come. He’d get it down for me.