Death notices on moving day

Roughly tearing into the death notices from today’s Toronto Star to shroud fine china handed down, down through the generations to gently line the shadows of a Redpath crate, small enough to lift in a slight woman’s strong arms and travel with it to a new basement apartment in a city that has grown too crowded.

I’m just back from helping Audrey pack up her kitchen. Slipped away from desk & duty to dive into the wreck (thanks Adrienne!): dismantling one home to construct another. But key here, I think, is the safety offered by the dead.

Tiny biographies in black and white, printer’s ink pressed into my hands but I won’t stop typing to scrub them clean. I like the flavour of these lives mingling with my words. They travel, these words, like oxygen-carrying blood from the heart to the tissues; they slide around like wisps of sound on a yellow flowering butterfly bush on a hot June afternoon.

Audrey asked me to help, so of course I said yes, I will help. We stood together emptying cupboards in her air-conditioned flat, the temperature outside a searing 35 degrees; we stood side by side ripping, scrunching, tearing strips of thick tape from a roll, careful not to lose the end. Again.

“Kitchen,” I wrote on the crate, both sides. “Fine China and the documented dead.”

Death notices are my bread and butter. I find lives there; I have a nose for stories and a yen to tell them. Today we have Douglas Winston Churchill. Margaret Jean, Emilio, I study their faces, like this woman who defied the camera to peer deep inside me. She is now in a tight embrace with a Prince Albert sugar bowl, step lightly in this dance, Imogen.

It is the coupling of life and death, those too-simple monosyllabic words that pack a punch like none other. Audrey, my friend, a new friend in fact, is loading up her life and moving it down the road a ways (sounds vaguely parabolic).

Before sealing her worldly goods in boxes or crates though, I study the lives who protect her–or at least protect her things, gifts from her grandmothers–in this move.


About Nor

I'm a creative non-fiction writer, with a special interest in memoirs and obituaries--life stories, local histories with flesh & blood anecdotal details. I'm also beginning to create podcasts of people's stories and expanding their audiences. I'm a diarist, an editor, and a political activist. I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and spend days tapping keys or staining my fingers in ink.
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