Freelance writer Square Sparrow lives on a rambling smallholding in rural Scotland with her husband (HunterGatherer) and, now and then, their three offspring. Other smallholding incumbents include one overly indulged feline called FatCat, a similarly rotund Highland pony called FatHorse, plus a flock of rather attractive Shetland sheep – known affectionately as the Chocolate Sheep because of their rich assortment of wool colours (and because of Square Sparrow’s passion for chocolate).
Sunday, 10 February 2013
What would be on your kist list?
Home Sweet Home - but what if you had to leave?
When not correcting other folk’s words, I pen a few of my
own and am a member of our local Creative Writing Group, which meets twice
monthly. We’re an eclectic group and
produce work that ranges from lyrical poetry to sci-fi to amusing anecdote. For our last meeting, the optional brief was
to imagine that we’d been given a short time to pack our most precious possessions
and leave our home, possibly never to return... We were given a fictional “kist” (old Scots word for “chest” or “trunk”)
in which to place the chosen objects and, to my surprise, apart from the family, FatCat, FatHorse and the Chocolate Sheep, plus essentials such as passports and critical paperwork, there were very few
material possessions that really meant a lot to me. Here's my motley collection of “treasures” which I felt would be worth saving:
Sentimentals: my kist list
First up, would be an album of photos, including a wedding
photo of HunterGatherer and myself (so any grandchildren would know we weren’t
always grey and wrinkly!) plus a selection of our three offspring growing up
from infancy to now – just a few snaps to remind us how they’ve stretched from
cute, cuddly bundles of mischief to edgy, adolescents and eventually (in the
case of the girls, at least!) to mature, sensible young adults. These are
irreplaceable memories that, as a mother, I would be terribly sad to lose.
Second into my kist would be the small, furry teddy that my
mum (aka Supergran) gave me when I travelled abroad on school exchanges as a
teenager. She knew that I had no room in my luggage for a soft toy, not to
mention the fact that it would not necessarily be deemed “cool” to carry a
full-grown ted with me as a hip, trendy teen. So she removed a fawn,
3-inch-high teddy furry motif from a sleep suit that had been mine as a toddler
(possibly one of the earliest recorded “onesies”!) and stitched a back onto it
to form a tiny flat transportable teddy.
Third in would be my younger daughter’s first flute, which
bears the scars of being the possession of a rather butter-fingered
owner. Music has been an essential part of the past 21 years of child-rearing – almost every night for about a decade there were up to five music practices done in our household. No X-boxes or PlayStations in sight at our “boring” residence! As the flute is the only instrument that would fit in my kist, it would have to be the memento of those musical years. One particular dent in it still fills me with maternal mortification. Being a member of Sunday School at the time, Daughter dear had been asked to play in an adult-only Easter Communion at the local parish church, where everything tends to extremely conservative – and that’s with a capital 'C' and a lower case 'c'! At one point in the service, there was a period of silence for meaningful contemplation, and DD chose that precise moment to allow her flute to roll off her lap and clang loudly onto the floor of the church. As if this was not bad enough, the clang was followed by the stertorial whisper of her father saying “Jesus Christ, girl!" So the bashed but beautiful little curved-headed flute, full of happy and mortifying memories, has to come.
Each bump and scratch = a musical memory
The fourth item on the sentimental list is peculiarly precious
to me – it was given to me by a complete stranger on the Potato Marketing Board
stand back in 1989 at the East of England Show near Peterborough. I was one of
the Scottish Potato Representatives on the stand, tasked with chatting to all
visitors and extolling the virtues of Scotland’s natural role as a producer of
disease-free seed potatoes. While I was conversing with an elderly American
gentleman about the merits of Scottish growing conditions, he suddenly plunged
his hand into his pocket and leant towards me almost conspiratorially,
whispering: “You seem the sort of girl who’d appreciate this.”
Then he pressed something smooth and flat
swiftly into my palm. Somewhat taken
aback and not sure what my gift of stealth might be, I looked at the object – it was a stone,
polished till it almost shone, but not painted – completely natural. It was triangular
in shape and half yellow/half grey in colour. Fortunately, I was well trained
by SuperGran at an early age to appreciate stones – indeed she still can't pass a white “chuckie”
stone without commenting on it. So
my reaction of delight at this lovely and unexpected gift was completely
genuine, a fact that was not lost on the donor. Leaning towards me again, he
said earnestly: “There’s somethin’ special about rocks, isn’t there?” His wonderful
words have stayed in my mind, and I see that stone as the symbol of the age-old
bond that links man to the earth and its natural treasures – not diamonds or
emeralds. Just pretty stones.
There is one final precious possession that I would try to
find when packing my kist, and it is a single ear ring. A tiny ornate gold leaf
that dangles from the traditional, drop ear ring metallic twist. It is the sole survivor of the pair of ear
rings that SuperGran bought me when I plucked up the courage to have my ears
pierced – my first (and only) rebellious act after leaving high school. Leaves
are significant for mum and me, as there is one particular bough of a tree on
the farm where I grew up, which for some reason has leaves that dance in the
wind and “sing”. Every autumn when they were turning to a different colour from
their peers and “singing” their sibilant song, my mother would with me to the
tree so we could both share in this magical music of the countryside. Simple
pleasures. What about you? What would you put in your kist?