Clearing out the Clutter

Recently myself and Mrs limey have started to clear out some of the stuff that has accumulated over the years. Moving house a year ago has helped a little to prompt that. However I am a natural hoarder while my lovely wife is not, so this tends to generate a few predictable discussions.

One of the challenges is that we have become the storage location of choice for much of my late mother’s things, which also means her parents things as well since she was an only child. Some of the stuff is incredible, like a couple of books that are more than 100 years old. What am I supposed to do with stuff?

There are some treasured items which have gone into a box and are now in the loft. However there are many other items which are far less treasured, what to do with them? Books have been the biggest problem. Its not just books that have come from Mum though, its also books that I have hoarded over the years. Books which, quite frankly, no one wants these days.

I compiled a sample list of the books and included those which I thought were the most desirable and valuable of the lot and sent it to a couple of bookshops which said they specialised in old books. They didn’t want any of them. A specialist old book store was not interested in a leather bound book that was 100 years old! Confused? You bet I was!

It could be that much of this list of old books is religious in nature. However, not all were.

So I am left with a few boxes of books which I really don’t know what to do with. I guess dropping them off at the local charity shop is my only choice. Yet am I doing any good by dumping on them stuff that clearly no one wants? Am I only shifting the storage and disposal quandary from myself to a charity?

Maybe I should just dump them all at the local waste disposal depot.

Yet the hoarder in me really does not want to do that, it is almost too painful to consider.

As well as the box old gems that I have found, there are also some classic children’s books. My mother was an avid reader as a young girl and had many books. Somehow all those books have survived and now I have them. Sorting through them I have a whole box of books with inscriptions in them to my mother for various achievements. Many of these books were prizes or rewards given her as a young girl, a young girl not much older than my own daughter.

The romantic in me wants my daughter to pick up these books and read them and love them like my mother did. They are old hardback books from the 1950s. Would a modern girl like my daughter even appreciate them? Even if she doesn’t, how can I get rid of a loved possession of my mother’s which pinpoints a specific part of her young life? I have a whole box of these pinpoints!

So I have had to create several boxes. Boxes to keep, boxes to keep for now, boxes I should disposes of but can’t and finally boxes of stuff to go. It will come as no surprise that the last category is the smallest.

So clearing out the clutter has resulted more dilemma instead of the hoped for peace and space.

In all that lot I found some old books of mine which I will be disposing of. Including all my 1960s James Bond books. I’ve had to be tough.

Then I discovered a couple of old bibles of mine. One is an RSV (oh that weird old English with thee and thou!) with a memento in it from my baptism and other markings I added over the years. There was also a bible I was ready to drop in the bin when I opened it up and saw the inscription. Given to me when my mother remarried, I remember the occasion, it was a happy day. It was her gift to me on that day. In it my step-father is described as my “friend in the Lord“. A phrase that I chose and sounds rather pathetic and twee more than 20 years later. He is also a man whom I have no love for, my attitude towards him is best described as contempt.

So that book went into the “I don’t know” pile as well.

The clear-out hasn’t been as successful as we had hoped. I think I’m going to have to toughen up and not pay so much attention to my emotions when we revisit this again, because I know we’ll have to.

Until that happens, the past will still hold me through the objects that represent it. That is a past mostly filled with happy memories and disposing of those objects feels like I am betraying those that are gone whom I still love.

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Witnessing Sinful Behaviour

The fall-out from my parent’s separation was staggeringly painful. I simply could not cope with the emotional impact that it had on me. The result was that I became very insular, easily prone to tears and enormously protective of my younger siblings.

I could not understand why my parents had separated, as far as I knew we had a happy family at home. I remember no arguments or fights. Though thinking back I can now see moments when the clues were there that all was not right. I think rather than fight my parents just didn’t talk, its also possible that my young mind simply shut out the bad memories.

My parents were now separated, but still married, and with no warning, my father was living with a new woman. Said new woman was fresh out of a marriage with two children older than me. I remember that we visited them as a family a few times. So dad definitely knew her while she was still married and vice versa, as to whether that knowing includes the biblical sense, one can only speculate, its been implied but I don’t know for certain.

Given that Christianity was a major part of the life I lived, the strange scenario that I now found myself in was extremely confusing. I didn’t understand why, I didn’t like this new woman who was to have a major involvement in my life. My mother, whom I loved dearly, seemed to be paying the highest price while also being the most mild mannered and humble of all the adults involved. Nothing made any sense at all.

Then there was the problem of sin.

It was utterly clear to me that what my father was doing was wrong from a Christian perspective. Other kids at school seemed to know things about my family situation that had not occurred to me, which could only mean their parents were talking about my parents. That hurt stacks. Why should they know these things when my parents would not tell me anything about what was happening?

One incident I remember was at end of term. My dad was in conversation with another father and they were discussing the possibility of my dad visiting and staying over. The other father mentioned he only had one spare bedroom with one bed in it. My father replied that that wasn’t a problem, he and new lady would share a bed. Other father promptly informed him that this was not acceptable and would not happen in his house.

Inside I cheered.

Seeing someone stand firm like that was what I needed. Until that point, all I had seen was my father behaving in a way that was contra to all that I had been taught about how to live. Here was someone saying it like it should be. It marked a point in which my respect for my father started to decline. His treatment of mum and bringing in this new woman and the sin that implied was enough for me to realise that not was he not perfect, but he didn’t care for me like he said he did.

It was around this time that I remember being on a car journey with mum and she was having a discussion with a friend about what was going on. Mum turned back to me and asked how I would describe this new woman, as she wasn’t a wife (yet) so what word did I use to describe her. Without so much as a second thought, my reply was “concubine”. Mum shrieked with embarrassment and immediately apologised to the friend, who remained silent on the subject. I think it very clearly shows my thinking on the matter.

Life at home with dad and new woman was stressful and horrid most of the time, with only small moments of happiness. New woman was a bossy and nagging. Nothing was ever easy for her and she was incapable of compliments. This reinforced to me that what dad had done was wrong and drove me to further withdraw emotionally.

The only place in my life that I could rely on for consistency was my education. Being at boarding school was probably a very good thing for me at this time as it gave me space to be away from the painful environment at home. One of the very few places that I found joy was in my growing Christian faith and the daily bible readings.

I was Only Nine Years Old When I Made the Decision to be Baptised

I still remember very clearly what prompted me to be baptised. I was attending a baptism service for the church that my mother attended. It was less than a year after the raid on the farm we were living on.

The Baptism service was being held in the open air on the bank of the river that runs through the farm and several people were getting baptised. I was standing next to my mother, enjoying the spectacle and the songs. The sound of Zambian voices singing songs of worship unaccompanied is quite something. It was a very spiritual moment.

Overcome by what I was witnessing and experiencing, I turned to my mother and said that I’d like to be baptised. She practically burst into tears of joy there and then. After a brief discussion with a few other adults, I was given the option of joining those being baptised there and then. My nerves got the better of me and I turned that down.

So arrangements were made, and some time later I was baptised, in the same river, in a more private service, where close family friends were invited. I can’t remember exactly how long later it was, whether it was weeks, or a whole school term. I am sure it felt longer that it really was. My mother gave me a copy of Pilgrims Progress, which she had written inside a small note of encouragement, and I still have as a one of my childhood treasures, it reminds me of times more happy.

Of course my father was there with his new woman and since he had travelled some distance to be there, he wanted some time with me. That’s the earliest memory I have of there being a battle for my attention. It made me feel horrid, being with my father would often do this. That’s why I always much preferred being with mum, her attention was always out of love and devotion for her offspring while dad’s seemed like it was to score points over mum. I hated that, hated it with a passion, and it would eventually become a hate towards dad and that woman.

Those First Weeks and Months after Baptism.

My first week back at boarding school I was given a small piece of paper by the headmaster with some key bible verses on it. This I placed in my first bible, an RSV. Its a bible I had owned for some time. I can’t remember exactly when I was given it, but I had already marked several verses on it by that time. I’ve owned several bibles since, but this bible is by far the most battered and scribbled in, and that small piece of paper with the key verses on is still there in the front cover.

I read the verses on that piece of paper many times in the following year. I knew my time at this school in Zambia was coming to an end. I knew my parents marriage was also going to end, I struggled massively with the denial of it. Even now the memories of that torment bring me to tears. I could not understand how or why my once wonderful childhood could be crumbling like this. Life used to be so wonderful and carefree. Since dad had introduced this new woman it had all gone to pot. That’s how I continued to see it anyway. It would be several years before I’d learn more of the truth, but until then all I had was what I saw and what I saw caused me immense upset on a regular basis. Being away at boarding school, with my little piece of paper tucked inside my bible, was my refuge from the turmoil, the hurt and the broken heart.

So I was sustained by the bible and I put a lot of effort into studying it. It was my distraction because talking about my family was, and still is at times, too painful. As my respect and admiration for my father diminished, so my devotion to a heavenly God increased.