In a child’s bedroom peppered with an explosion of popular tiny plastic toys, tucked at the back of the walk-in wardrobe, I keep a large, battered, old trunk. Its clasps are so rusty that I hurt my fingers when I try to prise them open.
I put this decrepit trunk in there when we moved back home after living abroad. Before that, I stored it in the spare room of a small apartment, or under the stairs in a rented townhouse, or in the cupboard of a run-down duplex and before that… well, you get the picture.
The trunk is heavy. It clanks and rattles each time I heave it up or down stairs or slide it along the floor to the next place we will stow it.
Inside is a cacophony of memories. Ruff the toy dog will forever miss the ear I tore off in a toddler rage. Old Ted is still in there, a peace offering to make up for the distress of my sister’s disruptive arrival.
It contains my carefully rolled up soccer scarves, heavy with the metal soccer team pins. I started to collect them when, to the horror of my parents, I acquired a boyfriend ten years older than me. I still have the decorative dish presented to me at the end of my teaching assignment in Japan, reminding me of how I always fumbled my bows and honorific tenses.
I even kept the locally made machete I used to cut my way through the Bornean jungle during a college environmental expedition. It changed my left thumbprint forever when I took it out of the sheath carelessly, just that once.
There are sports photos and graduation photos from college showing me trim and super-fit from rowing one year, puffy and overweight from a broken heart and exams the next.
Whenever I open the trunk, my senses are assaulted.
I smell the peculiar odour of leftover crumbling sticks of incense.
My skin tickles under the soft felt of the unique hand-sewn waistcoat I found in a market in South Africa.
I can hear the muffled jingle of wrapped up wind chimes I bought in Bali on my birthday when my friend was too hungover to spend the day with me.
However, I am yet to taste the peppermint of the symbolic stick of Brighton rock from that weekend away when I decided to move to the other side of the world.
There are other objects in there that I have forgotten about. Items from times and places before children, before marriage, before this life. When I think I should declutter, I might go into that room and pull out this old trunk, unopened for many years. I might gaze again at my carefully saved belongings that have no place in this family home.
Bushfire season is longer, hotter and drier than ever. So, if this house was in danger of being burnt down but I knew everyone was safe, what else would I rescue? Even if everyone around us doesn’t need to have a grab bag by the front door, the horror of the season ahead means we’ve all thought about what we’d take with us. Pets, keys, phone, wallet, the obvious. But what else? Laptop? Yes.
And this old trunk with all these mementoes of my earlier life? It is too heavy and too out of reach to take with me…
I’m Rananda, a Sydney-based writer and editor.
With 25-plus years in corporate life, a financial background, a science education, and a lifetime of writing, I know there is more to starting and growing a loyal following than just the words on your website or saving that draft manuscript in a folder.
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