Something Always Sings


This: words we thought were lost.


Of late, there’s been a good deal of Spring Cleaning going on around here.  We’re finishing off a little reno, so tidying all that up has spurned some sorting.   Yesterday I sat in a chair in the sun (quiet duties for me, so soon after getting out of hospital) while my hubster photographed things for an auction site. We’re culling. It feels good.
It’s our first real clear out since we moved here six years ago.  It’s good to let go.  Even better to find treasures you didn’t know were even there.

In the garage, he found a box.
“Honey, can you check out this box?  It needs to be sorted; is it a keeper?”.
The box is lurid seventies green.  I remember Mum kept her sewing patterns in boxes like that.  Surely they’re not still in there?  When I open the box, I see that it is only about a quarter full.  No patterns.  I see the kodak imprint on the back of some snapshots, a packet of lace coasters, a journal, a folio clad with swirls of purple, orange and green vinyl. It seems familiar, yet not my own.  Where have I seen that stuff before?

I reach for the photos first.  Pictures of me that my Mum used to have. I see myself at various ages.  It’s confronting, seeing that vital girl.  The sophisticated graduate. And comparing those selves to the sick me I now am.  I put the photos down.

My school reports.  A smattering of them from across the years.  “Rachel is an excellent student with a mature attitude to learning” (aged 8) alongside “Rachel is easily distracted and would do well to focus on the matter at hand. Aim higher” (aged 15).

This must be a box of things Dad gave me after Mum passed away.  Things my Mum left.  I remember vaguely, putting the box he gave me out of sight.  It was too hard, back then.

The kids and I laugh at my school report that shows a string of As and one D. 
“What does Grade: D Effort: 3, mean, Mum?”

“Experiencing Difficulties and Attitude needs Improvement”
“Mu-uum!  What was that for?”
“Physical Education”
My daughter looks at me with a grin on her face.  Her own frustrations on the sports field suddenly making sense, “Oh!”

The box contained some of the cards I had made Mum over time.  Even a letter I sent her from Germany when I was working there as an Au Pair. I didn’t know she had kept these things.

The journal was her own. A journey through her life during the times she lived in Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Beijing.  Then some sad entries about the time back in New Zealand before it all picked up for them again.  I looked at the loops of her handwriting, so similar to my own. I tried to hear her voice talking the words. I could only see her eyes, crinkling up into a smile. I was holding another fragment of her life, like her cup, both so absurdly present even though she can’t be. And yet, there she is, a breath away.  Her perfume in the air and her remembrances in my hands.

I reach for that folio.

Long after my Grandma passed away, Mum would speak of a folio, a special folder that carried the things my Grandma held dear.  Snippets from newspapers, poems and scriptures.  Little things she found or noticed that spoke to her.  My Grandma was a soulful person who carried a deep faith.  My Mum shared the same faith and often spoke sadly about the missing binder that held so many of the writings that inspired her own Mother.  After Grandma passed, my Mum thought her sister had the folder.  She urged me to find it. After her sister passed too, I did ask after it. But her daughter hadn’t seen it anywhere.  It was a mystery.  It seemed to be lost, like that whole generation of girls.

Until yesterday, when it was found, in our own garage, tucked away in a green box.

I wish I could give it to Mum.  She must have had it all along and not realised she did.  I wish I could travel back through time and show her.  I think of my sister and my cousins, I must tell them it is here.

I turned the pages carefully. Looking at the things that helped my Grandma through her most difficult days.  I could see a familiar interest in finding the words to carry you.  I do the same in my search for quotes and excerpts that say important things; in striving to find my own words.  This deep connection with words must be part of my Grandma’s legacy.

I thought again, about handwriting.  About the words we make, the words we keep.  The way my Grandma, my Mum and I stored words for inspiration.  Used words to make sense of life.  Wrote words to excise the pain.  I thought about how Grandma’s collected words could still speak to me, long after she is gone.  Even though I never really knew her.  It made me feel better about my own.  My own legacy.  Maybe my Grand-daughter will read these words one day and understand that I love her, even though I haven’t met her yet. That she is me, carried forward, just as I am the women before me, carrying on.


...on the first page of Grandma's folio.   In her own handwriting, these words that reached across two generations.  Thanks Grandma. X
…on the first page of Grandma’s folio. In her own handwriting; these words that reached across three generations. Thanks Grandma. X

17 thoughts on “Something Always Sings”

    1. I wish I had known her more. We visited her about five times (in my lifetime, at least) before we left the country. Then a few more visits (two?) before her holiday with us in Queensland, right near the end of her life. She was really sick then and not able to spend much time with me. I’m so glad that you have such good memories with her Dione. I feel like I knew her through my Mum’s eyes. Looking through her folio was really enlightening. Wouldn’t it be great to have the chance to have a cuppa with her now that we are all grown? Maybe we should organise a bit of a girls get together in her memory? That’d be so nice.

    1. Hi Jacquie, I am so glad you liked the post! Yes, those threads are so important. Finding the folio makes me feel like I’ve done something that would’ve made Mum happy. Tied up a loose end. Happy sigh. X

  1. Yet another beautiful post, Rachel, that brought tears to my eyes as I remember my own mom and how I don’t have anything of her really. I hope one day to find something like you have – you never know. I miss her so much. I try to remember her voice, hear her words, the ones that would sooth me so, but they do not come. What a treasure to find something of your mums and indeed what a beautiful legacy for your own children and their children too. Thank you for your words and for sharing the memories xx

    1. I hope you make a find, too Sarah. Go searching for that thread. Your mum must have been an exceptional woman to have brought you into our world Sarah. You and your writing heart!

  2. How wonderful that you found the folio! So special. I know it can be so difficult looking through things like papers or photos when someone close to you had passed. You have to be ready to take it in and that can often take years x

    1. Yes, the time has to be right. I was so glad to be able to laugh with my kids about the reports and have some lighthearted moments. The treasures we keep… X Thanks Karen

  3. Catching up on my reading Rachel. That was very heartfelt, and beautifully written. It seems that writing is really in the blood in your family when you think about it. How wonderful that you have something so precious of your grandmothers, that you can look at and hold anytime you want to and better still, something to pass on to your children in years to come. Your post made me think of my grandmothers and their life journey as well as often we only know them in the later years of their life. To know them other than just ‘grandmothers’ but intelligent and amazing women in their own right is precious to.

    1. Isn’t it? I felt such a disconnect from my Grandma because my family lived the expat life. We barely saw her when I was a child and she passed away when I was a teenager. So I have always felt sad that I didn’t really know her. It was lovely to feel like I was getting to know in a way, through the things she collected. I think I would have enjoyed having an adult conversation with her. X Thanks for your comment Nat.

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