Where do the memories go?

Last Friday involved a lot of heavy lifting. (Not for me, of course. There’s to be no heavy lifting with my right lymph node-less arm, but for Zsolt and my father.) We were collecting the last of the furniture from my grandmother’s old apartment in Montreal.

It is so strange to see the place empty. This is where we used to sit in a giant circle with the family and catch up. This is where she used to put chocolate bunnies filled with marshmallow on the table for the kids. This is where she made her sugar cream, baked her cookies, and did her work for the Alzheimer’s Society.

As you may know, Zsolt and I are growing in optimism that we’ll soon move out of my parents house. And as you know, we upped and left our previous place (and previous furniture – except the mattress, which was impossible to offload) back in England. So the collection of free and gently used furniture is a very welcome thing.

But it’s a little strange to have this nest of Lulu’s old stuff, waiting to be turned into ‘our stuff’ as we move into a new home. It’s strange because I look at the sofa that was hers, and I can remember sitting on it when we visited, and it’s been in her home for so long . . . and it makes me wonder, “Is Lulu in this sofa? Is this sofa part of her?”

Same goes for the kitchen table where we’d eat the take-away St Hubert chicken and gravy – a Forget Family Favourite. Or the dishes on which she’d serve meals back when she was better, less worried, and still cooking for guests.

So we have a household worth of furniture, and her apartment is now essentially bare. Empty. Sold.

“Is she in that apartment? Is she in the bits and pieces we take away?”

Where is she now?

Well I’m not qualified to answer that last question. But as for the others, I reckon she’s not in that empty apartment, and she’s not in the cushions of her old sofa. Mostly, I figure, she’s right deep in our memories and our hearts – the good and the bad, the woman as a whole. She’s in the memories. And as for her soul? Well, Lulu believed in heaven, so that’s where she’s bound to have gone.

Looking at the empty rooms, the bare floors, the naked shelves . . . I can feel that she’s not here anymore. Lulu is somewhere else. We get to keep her memory in the knickknacks and the photos . . . but she is not here anymore. She’s moved on.

And so shall we.

It couldn’t be easy on my mother and her sisters to pack away their mother’s life. But maybe they’ve come to the same conclusion, that Lulu’s life does not rest in her things. The objects and furniture are memories, good emotions, happy moments . . . but they are not her.

It’s not easy to say goodbye to a person you loved. But once you realize they’ve already left, I suppose it becomes just that little bit easier. (I’m not saying it’s entirely easy, and I’m not saying I don’t miss her . . . but she’s not in that apartment, I know it for sure. So I have to imagine she’s somewhere else far better, with my grandfather and her siblings. And they’re having a laugh with those angle wings on and acting some ridiculous pantomime like back in the old days. Why not? Anything is possible.)


P.S. Today (Monday) Zsolt and I are steam-cleaning Lulu’s old furniture. It’s been a while since they’ve been cleaned, plus she used to smoke. So we’re out here in the backyard with this foaming, splashy, steamy machine trying to fix things up real nice. Her furniture is becoming our furniture, and so it takes on another life.

P.P.S. That’s a photograph of Lulu (Lucienne) and Benoit. Aren’t they a handsome couple?

8 thoughts on “Where do the memories go?

  1. This makes me happy and sad. Sad that you had to day goodbye, but happy that you get to create new memories for items so near and dear to you.

  2. Catherine, What a beautiful and sentimental piece of writing. I love it. Things are just things, but they do often represent special memories don’t they? I’m glad you and Zsolt will get to use some of your grandmother’s things. That’s lovely. Thanks for writing this. And yes, they are a handsome couple!

  3. Beautiful post. I still find it so hard to see my Mom’s things all around the house I grew up in. Sometimes i think it would be easier if the house was empty as, a bit like loneliness, sometimes it is harder to deal with the emptiness of a home still crowded with memories.

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