Packing Memories

Packing continues. In short fits and abortive starts. I am roused briefly, seized by some sudden energy borne of guilt, fuelled by too much tea, which dissipates quickly with the tedium of the task in increasingly dusty hand or because I have become distracted.


By an envelope stuffed full of assorted family members’ x-rays: a set ordered by Hat’s orthodontist; she’ll need a retainer, he said, Hat looked appalled and promised to stop sucking her thumb; too late said the dentist, but kindly. And he smiled.


Another collection of misty celluloid images – quite stuck together now – show my husband’s spine. They were taken in the KCMC Hospital which lies sprawled in the shadow of Mt Kilimanjaro. They had to be ordered after he had fallen from a tree and lay sprawled on the ground beneath it (alarmingly close to an enormous rock) on Christmas day 13 years ago: he’d shinned up the trunk to retrieve a little boy’s Santa delivered boomerang. He lost his grip after posting the present back down to earth. He spent the rest of the day flat on his back (we managed to move him from lawn to bed) I administered arnica, pain killers and the odd stiff whisky (and spade loads of increasingly inebriated TLC; it was Christmas day, after all).


The following morning I drove him to hospital. We waited for hours before we saw the Orthopaedic surgeon (and whilst we waited we encountered a patient who had died in the corridor lying upon a stretcher; I hoped we didn’t have to wait as long as he). The surgeon pronounced husband perfectly alright and suggested he take a couple of aspirin. Weeks later, and still almost immobile, we finally sought a second opinion in distinctly more salubrious Nairobi Hospital over the border. The orthopaedic surgeon there ordered new x-rays post haste: ‘’I can’t read these bloody things’’, he said in frustrated annoyance, squinting at the originals and frowning at me (presumably for not doing better first time round and securing my best beloved better care), “the quality is far too poor”, he explained. The new set revealed husband had shorn off the ends of three of his vertebrae. Nobody could find them though.  And he was apparently, given a few weeks bed rest and rather more concerted TLC on my part, no worse for wear.

The third folder of pictures stuffed into the same giant brown envelope which is crusted with mud, testimony to a hornet’s house-building, holds my attention for much longer: the ultra sound photographs taken when I was 25 and my son a 23 week old foetus. I look at them now and am no less overcome by the emotion that attaches to those first glimpses of our babies: indefinite fuzzy outlines that we gaze upon for hours, tracing the gentle curve of tiny spines with our fingers, and trying not to cry.  



18 Responses to “Packing Memories”

  1. lori Says:

    dear r.m. i’ve been going through the same moving,packing,reminicing. and ive decided that even tho moving basically sucks, i like it in a way because it forces you to deal with alot of the stuff that weighs you down(weighs me down anyway) i dont know why it is i always seem to accumulate so much random stuff, even when i try so hard to have an awareness about this. i do hope you can turn some of the packing monotony into a positive.meditate perhaps? are there garage sales in africa?

  2. ann Says:

    You are right, why do we keep all this stuff. I’ve got xrays that go back years, but we keep them “just in case”! In case of what?

  3. stacie Says:

    In case we have to move and get to relive poignant parts of our lives…I have lived a nomadic life for my entire adult life, and long ago threw these sorts of memories out…wish I had them from time to time, just to have a touchstone on my life other then my terrible memory…the details are nice to have.

  4. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    hello lori, thanks for dropping by. No, no garage sales, but alot of very willing receivers of the stuff i no longer need, especially clothes and shoes that the children have grown out of. it forces one to do something more useful with stuff thats accumulated, thats for sure.

  5. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    in case we need distracting the next time we pack up I guess, ann?

  6. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    stacie, thank you: a touchstone on our lives: perfect, perfect, perfect, now I have the best excuse not to sift and sort too vigorously.

  7. nuttycow Says:

    Beautifully written, as always.

    Hope the unpacking prompts more stories 🙂

  8. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thanks Nutty: for the kind words and the luck.

  9. Roberta Says:

    These wonderful things, the little things in envelopes…they are your history.

  10. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    they are Roberta, aren’t they. And i continued to unearth more. unearth and quickly pack. more history. mine and my children and even my mums. possibly my gran’s. another story … x

  11. Potty Mummy Says:

    RM, am so with you on the packing. I hate, hate, HATE it. Maybe something to do with fear of change, who knows? But those moments when you come across photos of ultrasounds and such-like – well, they do make it bearable. Just caught up on your last 3 posts. Fabulous.

  12. Expat Mum Says:

    Oh those ultrasounds. They are fairly big on them in the US, and for my 2nd in particular, I had to have quite a few. I can’t believe I was so cavalier with them as I now find them in underwear drawers when I’m sorting. They are magical, and even look like the child they would become. Hold onto them but don’t crease them – the creases make white marks.

  13. Mark Says:

    very nice blog, found it utterly by mistake, have a peep at mine if you get time..regards..Mark

  14. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thanks PM. possibly: fear of change … though in this respect i relish the prospect of the changes it’ll bring in terms of more space. and greater distance from local disco and the chuch which in inclined to begin revving at 6am on sundays and even indulge in occassional all night raves.

  15. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thanks expatmum; i realised that belatedly: about the white lined creases. i had to have lots – because my antenatal care was in kenya/tanzania and my deliveries in northamptonshire. i dont’ think they believed i’d had any regular care when i got to the uk and redid it all anyway.

  16. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thanks mark, off to have a look now … i swim too, but not like you: a few lengths is all i can manage, no channels for me i don’t think. full of admiration.

  17. Milla Says:

    thanks for coming by me, RM. What a fabulous blog this is, you write so beautifully. (Don’t go dropping that china now …)

  18. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Milla, thank you so much. How kind. Will try not to drop the china … or the glass … or any of the paintings I have bought over the years and for which I absolutely do not have enough wall space …

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