In films and books, characters connect the dots and have lightbulb moments in nano seconds. Maybe I am a bit slow, or maybe it’s just that my life narrative doesn’t have to fit into a prescribed amount of time or pages, but my own joining the dots tends to take longer.
Last week I went to a talk which was, in part, to do with conservation. One of the challenges conservators face when restoring an object is deciding how close to new that conservation should bring that object.
The patina left by people’s hands; the dirt from the homes where it was kept; the general wear and tear that any object has in its life, is part of that object’s story. Yet look online and you’ll find objects in ‘mint’ condition, from coins to Matchbox toys, achieve the highest prices.
My home has many objects from my parents’ house. I moved to this flat at about the same time they downsized from a three bedroomed house to a two bedroomed bungalow, and as well as the furniture from my bedroom, they passed on a book table, my mother’s nursing trunk, a lady’s chair.
More downsizing brought me dining chairs, a waste paper bin made by my father from parquet. The remove to the care home much more. My flat is now dominated by furniture and objects I grew up with.
When I was a toddler, I loved the sideboard. I recall kneeling in front of it, tracing the carved flowers with small fingers. I know exactly where the bottle of brandy sat. The bottle of brandy, that lasted from Christmas to Christmas, that my sister innocently used to make the best brandy snaps in Surrey.
More recently, I remember being upset when I saw my mother scraping her walking frame by the sideboard. There is a deep scar of a scratch and a few missing layers of veneer from this and other encounters with her old age frailty.
Since that talk, I am looking at these wounds with different eyes. They are honourable wounds that tell of long service and use. So many hands must have touched this piece of furniture during its life. I think it is Victorian. At some point, a structure above it was removed. There are two notches where it must have been attached.
But it’s that harsh scratch, the ugly scar that I look at most fondly. Because each time I look at it, I see my mother determinedly navigating her way around her home with scant respect for the things she tended so carefully for so many years.