Memories or junk?

Thanks to all of you who got in touch following the sudden death of my mum last month. I’ve really appreciated all your comments. My brother and I have worked hard to get her estate in order over the last few weeks, and I’ll soon be back at my writing desk full-time again. Mum would have been appalled if she’d known that she’d inadvertently gate-crashed the release of AUTUMN: INFERNO. You see, she wasn’t a horror fan by any stretch of the imagination, but she supported my work tirelessly over the years and was one of my most ardent cheerleaders.

It was easy to take her support for granted. She used to infuriate me, if I’m honest. There were endless interrogations for news/gossip whenever I saw her, and I used to cringe whenever I released something new and she forced herself to read it out of motherly loyalty. She’d always report back with “it was quite good”, or “I enjoyed it (but it’s not my kind of thing)” when it was clear she’d had to force herself to finish every sentence, and I was forever telling her not to put herself (and me) through it every time I released a new book. She’d never been a lover of apocalyptic fiction, and nothing I wrote was going to change that! All that said, it will be strange when I next write a sex scene or a violent action scene filled with explicit language… I won’t be cringing inwardly thinking “Mum’s going to read this…”

As Pete and I have emptied the house, we’ve been forced to go through her most private things. Our parents’ love letters to each other, keepsakes and mementos, trinkets that meant everything to Mum, but nothing to anyone else.

I was talking to one of my daughters the other day about the transitory nature of memories. I have a cardboard box full of what can only be described as crap, but which I wouldn’t part with for the world. It’s filled with odds and ends that remind me of special times – mostly when Lisa and I first fell in love, and when the kids were born. I look in there and the emotion is almost overwhelming, but anyone else peeking in would just see junk: things like a perfectly preserved paper bag, a plastic roller skate keyring, a scrappy notebook filled with the track listings of mixtapes, a bunch of receipts for meals and gifts… To me, a box full of memories. To almost everyone else, a box full of rubbish.

It broke my heart when I found more memories in Mum’s purse. She’d been carrying these two scraps of paper with her for more than twenty-five years. They wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else, but to Mum they were clearly priceless. An invitation to the party Mum and Dad threw when my first book was released. Hundreds of friends, family, and neighbours piled into their back garden to eat, drink, and buy books. I know it started at 4pm, but I can’t remember when it finished… But it’s the receipt behind that touched me most. It took me a while to work out what it was for, then realisation struck – Mum posted the final edited manuscript of STRAIGHT TO YOU back to the publisher as I was at work, and she’d carried the receipt with her ever since. That release was the beginning of my writing career, the moment it stopped being a pipe-dream and became a reality.

To everyone else, these are just two dog-eared scraps of paper. To Mum – and now to me – they’re so much more than that.

Bookmark the permalink.