It was a small room, probably four by three metres but it was a treasure trove for my young curious mind. Clothes, handbags, jewellery, photographs, unfinished sewing, beading and crochet projects. All these were housed in my grandmothers bedroom.
Looking back, my grandmother was probably a functioning hoarder. She had two wardrobes plus a makeshift clothes line (mutariro) full of possessions. To think that this room had once contained her and my grandmothers clothes! But for a 9 year old, it was the like a portal into another world. Every drawer and shelf revealed a piece of my grandmothers’ life. Her hopes, dreams and talents; all of which she had plenty, resided in each item she kept close to her.
Being sent into her room to find something presented an opportunity to take a peek at some of these treasures. I recall a large envelope on a shelf filled with black and white photographs; young versions of our relatives . They were always well dressed, having made the trip to the local photo studio. How times have changed!
She had these two beautiful red handbags that hung up on the wall. The bags were for special occasions, Sunday church or a family gathering. Over time, she used them less and less only to serve as her “secret” cash stash. I remember at the end of every school holiday right before our parents came to collect us, she would ask one of her grandchildren to get her handbag. If it was one of the red ones, we knew we were in for a large payout. A crisp note was guaranteed! I loved that she knew not to give us money in front of our parents.
When she passed away, as is with Shona custom, her possessions became those of her “relatives”. Bit by bit, the room that held memories of almost 8 decades was dismantled and handed to one person or another. The beautiful clothes she never wore, the shoes, the unfinished projects; they all moved on and into someone else’s home to start a new chapter. And with it, her spirit moved on too. As time passed I could no longer smell her or feel her presence.
There’s a longing embedded in my memories of her. She lived through an interesting time and I would have loved to hear those tales and relate them to all her possessions. I often wonder who got those two beautiful handbags and if they’ve treat them with the same love and care that she had afforded them.