Monday, March 29, 2010

The Suitcase lurking in the shed

Should you open a time capsule? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself for the past week. Ever since my parents decided to do some cleaning up. One minute I’m laughing at them because they’re up to their ears in tax returns that date back to sometime before God was a boy. The next they’re handing me a suitcase.

“We think this is yours,” said Dad. “We had to go through it to see. There’s pictures of you and sister B, but there are letters too. Letters from [insert name of former boyfriend].”

Oh. Weird. I still haven't opened the suitcase.

I’d like to make it clear at this point that this is a relationship that’s been over for twice the seven years it lasted. Not recent. Not festering. Not even thought about for years. But I haven’t opened that suitcase.

When The Builder and I packed up our Sydney house, home for nearly ten years, I remember thinking that I didn’t have many photos. He has albums full of pictures of his travels overseas, his friends, his girlfriends, his full (but not full enough, clearly) life before he met me. I had nothing. The two years I travelled overseas were well-documented, but there was nothing before and nothing much after.

I didn’t think too much about it because I’ve never been a snap-happy person. I like to experience moments rather than waste them trying to capture them for posterity. I have clear memories of watching in disgust the tourist couple in Venice as they floated past – him hanging out one side of the gondola with a video camera, not wanting to ‘miss’ a minute for their friends back home; her sitting, hands in lap, staring into space. Why go?

In hindsight, given that I have a memory like a sieve, I probably should have taken more pictures in my youth. I’ve made up for it in the past six years though – the combination of children and digital technology has increased my output to about 3000 images a year. (Most of them hiding on my hard disk. Why bother?)

Anyway, it seems that the lost chapter of my life has reappeared, magicked out of the back of Dad’s shed. Noone can remember when it was put there. Given the chronological markers – we’re looking at taking a core sample of the artefacts around it – it’s been there for at least 15 years.

And now it’s in my shed. An obstacle to be worked around when I get the pram out, or the bikes in. For a week now I’ve been looking at it. An innocuous brown vinyl suitcase, buckled and tagged. I’m curious, I admit. But part of me also wonders whether it’s a chapter that needs re-opening.

I’ve lived without its contents for a long time. Haven’t missed them. And I’m on a whole new page these days.

Do I just go with that and throw the whole thing out, buckled and tagged? What would you do?


  1. I am the kind of person who cannot sleep if there is unopened mail. I would have opened that suitcase before it could have crossed my threshold, possibly yanked it out of my dad's hands with a scissors for ease of opening as he handed it to me. In fact I am cutting this comment short because I am so desperate for you to open the case that I don't want you to waste your time reading comments.

  2. Al- just bloody open it. I can't stand the suspense! I wanna know before we meet up for coffee at 9.05am, thanks.

  3. You must open it! You'll forever be wondering just what was in there if you don't. It will transport you back in time. You will see how you have changed and grown and what ridiculous angst you had (if you're anything like me) and relive the first crushes of youth. Oh halycon days!

    Seriously, I regret throwing away letters from teenage years. I still have some, and journals, but I wish I had more photos. If only to laugh at and show my kids.

  4. Just open it and tell us what mysteries are inside. I would have taken it home and waited til i was alone and then savoured the contents.

  5. Nup, I'd be cautious. Have you read a fabulous poem called "The Darling Letters", by Carol Ann Duffy? If not, you should before you open that suitcase.
    (Scroll down)

  6. Wow, you have restraint. While not quite of the level of Sharpest Pencil I'd also have checked it out asap.

    Oh, and my word verification is 'ought' - doesn't get clearer than that.

  7. @Kylie L - I read the poem. All those who think I should jump into the suitcase like Alice down the rabbit hole should also read - helps to sum up my caution. But I'm also a sucker for peer pressure. Will open over Easter - season of contemplation and new beginnings - and post about contents next week. Stay tuned!

  8. I read the poem, but am willing to admit readily that my name could just as easily have been Pandora.

    I would open it more to find old pics of friends, reminders of the young woman I was before I understood that contented and growing love WAS possible (and in my future).

    Plus, as I like to think of most things, it's bound to provide some great content!

  9. Chuck it. Unopened. I love a good purge. I think it comes from moving so much!

  10. You've got to open it. If nothing else, for a good laugh at your old self and to hide anything incriminating. And by "hide," I mean "blog about." =>

  11. Hmmm...Keep it but open it when you next have to do a clean up. That's what I'd do.


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