Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 7th 2013 Contents B3
Monday, October 7, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Do you have a stack of old newspapers
in a corner that is taller than yourself
because one day you might paint the
drawing room that pretty bougainvillea
colour you saw in a magazine, and you
might need a few pages to protect the
floor, although you have not lifted a
paintbrush in 20 years?
Have you never met a used plastic bag
you did not like?
Is every drawer, cupboard, can, box, jar
and thimble stuffed with loose coins,
scraps of paper with phone numbers
scribbled on them, expired medicine, old
prescriptions, coils of twine, shoelaces,
hairpins, buttons that were never re-
attached, needles that were never thread-
ed, and frayed, faded hair ribbons that
no self-respecting five-year-old would
If you answered yes to any of these
questions, you are my grandmother and
in need of an intervention.
Granny! Stop it! You are a hoarder and
you will end up on some creepy reality
TV show if you continue rescuing yes-
terday from the garbage heap of tomorrow.
The extended family converged on granny s
modest two-bedroom last weekend with mops
and brooms and Clorox to get a headstart on the
annual grumbling that goes something like this:
Me: "Ma, I am throwing out this old bag. It has
a huge hole at the bottom.
Ma: "Bonterre! That is my market bag. I will
sew it. I make that bag myself before you dream
to born. Leave my bag alone, please.
Platang! Blutunk! Ping! Crunnkkk! That is the
sound of me pitching out the empty jam jars, and
stomping on the empty biscuit tins to reduce the
chances of sneaky hands, still nimble despite the
tracings of time, retrieving them for some vague
use at a distant point in the undetermined future.
Ma: "Wait, that pot good. Her voice reaches
a high-pitched squeal, like when the air is suddenly
let out of a balloon.
Me: "It has no handle.
Ma: "So? I hold it with cloth.
Me: "You could set yourself on fire that way.
Ma: "Bltsitui-rerre-prhualik-erarekelealala. Or
anyway, something that sounded like that because
I don t understand patois, especially when it is
being rattled off at rocket speed.
By the time everything is mopped and polished
and the accumulations of the last year are cleared
away, the conversation inevitably gets around to
how young people these days don t appreciate the
value of things and want everything new, new,
new and maybe she too should be thrown out
because she has been old for a long time.
And then, we all shuffle out to the porch with
our heads bowed, and we feel like malignant boils
for making her discard her memories---the chipped
enamel cup she always took her cocoa tea in; the
wad of crumbling, yellowed receipts from the
Cocoa and Coffee Board when $50 for a harvest
was good money; the rusty three-line cutlass she
used to wield like a badjohn if any dotish, no-
count, pothound man dared trespass on her
doorstep; the few inches of now torn lace she used
to wear in her hair for Sunday services.
But that weekend, I went too far.
Behind the wardrobe I drew out a flowered pil-
lowcase and undid the knot. Inside a rusted short-
bread biscuit tin was a folded white foolscap page
wrapped in tracing paper in a brown envelope. It
bore the most elegant script in blue ink and a red
12-cent stamp with the image of the young Queen
"Dear Sir," it began. "Your granddaughter and
I are in love.
I stopped breathing. "We ask no more happiness
than to be joined in the bonds of Holy Matrimony,
to which end, I earnestly solicit your consent to
her hand in marriage.
It was the letter that the besotted suitor had
written to Granny s own father, asking to marry
Granny s only daughter. Out of that marriage,
came the multitudes, a rowdy, happy, impossibly
racially mixed and culturally blended family.
And there I was, trying to declutter the life of
a 99-year-old matriarch, careless of the history
in her old envelopes and biscuit tins.
The thought that I might have accidentally
thrown out the priceless letter filled me with such
dread that I began to cry long, wet tears.
Sorry, Granny. I am putting back everything
where I found it.
Until next year.
How to help hoarding Granny
Platang! Blutunk! Ping! Crunnkkk! That is
the sound of me pitching out the empty jam
jars, and stomping on the empty biscuit tins
to reduce the chances of sneaky hands, still
nimble despite the tracings of time,
retrieving them for some vague use at a
distant point in the undetermined future.
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