It's hard work, this cleaning stuff. Not just physically hard, but emotionally draining. Every pile of clutter contains something to remind me of Goldie. What's important, what do I need to keep? And what to I need to let go?
I have a box of files relating to her education - they're irrelevant now; they can disappear. I have bags of bits relating to her medical stuff - copies of old reports, out of date letters, they can all go. Christmas cards, Easter cards, Get Well Soon cards; all these have gone. But for some reason letting go of the Birthday Cards is harder. Goldie's Birthday was near Christmas; as far as she was concerned, Christmas was just one long celebration of her own birth and life. Cake after cake after party after party; how many other children have the whole school hold plays and concerts in honour of their Birthdays? Short of confidence, she was not! And so many people who didn't see her very often used to send her cards. I saved them all, planning to put them into her journal one rainy day.
Well the rain came and the hot floods rose, and the book never got finished. And I'm not sure that I want to finish it now. Ending it with her Birthday cards would be false; ending it with sympathy cards and funeral cards would mean either drastically editing them or else having more than half the book be about her death instead of her life. So I'm stalling on that; a handful of birthday cards is not the mountain of clutter which had overtaken this house before I started.
Photographs. So many photographs. A computer full of them, a hard drive filling rapidly, and so many printed off. Many which I printed for her funeral collage and then didn't use. I have electronic copies; I don't need the physical ones. A few I could frame, but to frame them all would be to fill even more of our walls with Goldie Composites; and whilst her smile was pretty spectacular, I don't really want this house to be a shrine to Goldie. An Album might be sensible, but do I really want an album full of rejects? And yet, to throw them away means sorting through them carefully; double checking that I do have the digital copy and haven't confused my own photos with gifts, and it means doing it at a time when the girls aren't around so Little Fish doesn't get cross with me. She likes sorting through Goldie photos. Maybe that's reason enough to keep them still in their little box, watching the numbers of them slowly drop as they get chopped up, scribbled on, dribbled on, and force fed yoghurt. And it's only a little box, not as if it takes up too much space, right?
Unused emergency personal casette players. Who uses these any more? Goldie used to get through one a month; one a week in holiday time. Not just chewing through the headphones (got a fair few of them too) but clattering them to the floor and munching on the buttons and dribbling into the battery cases. And they're only small packages, they don't need much room...
Back up voices from Elmos past. Goldie loved a particular singing Elmo. Only one type, only one song, and only one particular version of that one song. No substitutes. And again, loving destruction rate fairly high. The bears seem to have disappeared (although I think there may be three lurking in my bedroom somewhere), but the guts, the noise boxes, are stacked behind my knitting needle boxes. And they're Goldie's voice - how can I throw them away? And yet, how can I bear to let anyone else play them?
More photographs. A gift photograph. Not a beautiful photo necessarily, but a representative ragamuffin photograph, a happy smiling relaxed Goldie chilling out in her new home, Elmo beside her, legs all over the place, hair wild and hands dancing. Precious to me because it is proof that she was happy even when I wasn't there. That's reassuring. And only one copy, so important to keep it safe.
In another pile, an unused photo frame. Not a perfect match, but the right size, good and solid, and nicely protective. It is as I slide the photo into the frame that I notice the date. It is dated the evening before Goldie had her accident. It is, therefore, a photograph of her last whole day. The last day she danced without pain, the last day her body worked in the way it worked for her, the last day she sat up or sprawled on the floor or ate or drank or did anything but suffer. The last day she wore clothes.
And I lie; it is a beautiful photograph.
And my heart hurts.