By Johanna Michelle Lim
IT’S been years since we last opened the grandmother’s room. We allowed her, the spirit of her, to live there. She haunts us through religious books, perfumes in the boudoir, clothes that smell like moth balls. We left them untouched and undiminished, in order not to feel the loss.
The woman had her own method to organizing madness. She compiled articles from dailies and kept them in one whole closet, some dating as far back as the 70s. She had a cubbyhole of clocks; all had stopped ticking long before she did. Another cubby had burnt out candles. Yet another one full of fans, a different color for every outfit she had custom-made. You’ll never know when you’re going to need these things, she would say.
We tried to empty the closets through the years, give away unnecessities. But more things pile in, those outgrown by ordinary life, forgettable to the everyday – a crib, comic book collections – but somehow preserve a phase. We kept them in that museum of a room to gather dust. Until such time we’re ready to pick them up again.
The originator of all these hoardings, the grandmother, was born at a time when a relationship with grandchildren was faux pas. Grandchildren weren’t hugged, but taught good manners. Achievements weren’t celebrated, except as entertainment chitchat with guests. We questioned perhaps at one point whether she had any empathy left for us, or if she did, why the uncanny way of showing it? I look at her room now and remember the smell of fire going out, rosary beads in our hands, a practice she impended until I was in College.
But it is time to let go of accumulations finally perhaps. The brother needs the room now, bigger space for the wife and niece.
So we slowly trim through her memories, sort out what we needed to keep for our own children. I open my grandmother’s closet and find all the vintage jewelry I played with as a child. At the back, I find an unassuming metal box that used to hold saltine crackers, and there, are knick-knacks of my own memories she chose to keep. There were school IDs, earrings, report cards, hair barrettes, things I’ve outgrown and found unnecessary in ordinary life. I hand a pink clip to the daughter, and thank the hoarder who somehow premeditated the need from the past.