Things To Remember

I admit. I'm a hoarder. The older I get, the more I keep on to things rather than throwing or giving them away. I also very much like my things. Not because they have any greater monetary value, but because they help me remember.

I've made several trips to Bangkok and every time I use one of the silk shawls I bought there, I remember how the breakfast mango tasted, I hear the roar from the traffic on Sukhumvit road, I feel the smoke from the fires at the temple yards in my nose and eyes, and I sense the warming sun on my skin.
From ITP I2W Bangkok 2009

Things also help me remember people. I keep my travel stuff in a black chest of drawers that once belonged to my father's aunt Bertha. She was a nurse, biking to her patients all over Småland, but also very active in helping the poor. When my father Göran went to school in Alvesta, he stayed with her and he was always very fond of her. 

Here I also keep the violet perfume flacon my mother's father Gösta gave to my grandmother Gudrun on Christmas Eve 1933 on their way back from Australia. There he transformed the stuffy Swedish church in Melbourne into a vibrant community with lots of activities for young people, a concept he took with him back to Sweden. Gudrun worked as cantor when she didn't run the vicarage. She made trousers for her daughters to wear, something of a revolution in the 1940's in rural Öland.

Not far from the sturdy chest of drawers stands a special shelf for sheets of music, simple yet rather elegant. It stood beside an old black piano that my father's mother Edith used to play. You can see and hear her play, 94 years old, at the end of Katarina Dunér's program on Swedish Houses. Edith loved reading and was always keen on learning. When her oldest son, my uncle Olle, started painting she wanted to try it herself. One of her still life paintings now hangs in my kitchen.

I've also kept a beetle boot jack. As a small child, it met me in the hallway to the teachers' house in Mistelås where my father's parents lived. Edith taught the small children and Martin the older ones. He was also very active in developing the community, initiating building a sauna at the stream and supporting the local football team. 
My parents got engaged at the football field, deep in the woods. It was my father who insisted on marriage. My mother Sigrun thought it wasn't that necessary, but he persisted, and they were married for more than 50 years. She now wears the ring she gave him in a necklace, where it encircles a small heart of gold.
Today we celebrate All Saints Day in Sweden. Although we have sadly imported the commercial American Halloween tradition to some extent, this is very much a time when we gather to remember and celebrate the dear ones who've passed away. Candles are lit at the churchyards and graves are decorated with fir tree branches and cones.

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