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.