Beloved Bear & Other Stories
Updated: Jan 11
Lockdown has sent many of us into de-clutter mode. With unexpected time on our hands to look critically around us – at our homes, at our belongings, at ourselves – a Spring clean is no longer tied to a season.
I had just been reading an article about Marie Kondo, tidying supremo and ‘cleanfluencer’ influencer. I think she is brilliant. Her catchphrase ‘spark joy’ in relation to sorting out in an intuitive moment, the things that make us happy from the things that no longer have that emotional connection, was at the back of my mind when, on the spur of a moment I decided to delve into an old wooden box that I knew contained things that I have always been unable to throw away.
Armed with a new determination to find out which of the contents could now be put to one side - saying ‘thrown away’ is just a step too far for me at this point - and which gave me the happiness that would save their place in the box, I prepared myself for the task in hand.
With a little irony I noted to myself that before I could start, I did have to unload the top of the box and move a steep hillside of stacked (neatly I hasten to add) things that had been tidied away there temporarily but which had stayed put for months!
What actually happened was not so much the unpacking of each item but the unpacking of its story. It was like reading a book a second time and remembering the threads of the plot or details of the characters that had been forgotten or not taken in properly the first-time round.
A bear was first to emerge from his brittle paper wrapping. Much loved, patched up, re-suited in upholstery fabric, with faded arms and legs, a darned cheek and a crick in his neck. This was my father’s childhood teddy bear from the 1920's. I tried to imagine how a little boy with a beloved bear could have become such a strict disciplinarian in adult life. The story had no illustrations but I tried to picture him as a child. I remembered my grandmother’s inherited chairs from which the upholstery remnant clearly came. I remembered the room they occupied in my parents’ house and that as children we were not allowed to sit in them. The story rambled on; a bit more bitter-sweet than happy but all the better for a second reading.
With each rediscovered thing another story unfolded. I was my own story-teller and my own avid readership!
The point of the exercise had become less about de-cluttering and more about re-connecting. Perhaps a vital purpose in these disconnected times. 'Spark joy’ clearly had the upper hand but I don’t think that I was missing the point. I had reminded myself that my storage box was in fact a treasure chest.