The arrival of the Spanking Spunky Shelves has occasioned a mass clear out of all our files – at least those that have been steadily piling up around me for the past, oh, nearly ten years since I got back to Sydney from London. It just doesn’t seem credible that one person could generate such a vast paper trail, but the truth is, I’m not even including the boxes and boxes of correspondence, thesis notes (I want to chuck those, but Llew insists I should keep them – for what is unclear, but it’s certainly not sentimental value), theatre stubs and exhibition tickets (were I ever to become a scrap-booking fanatic, I would have formidable resources at my disposal), photos, diaries, note books and god knows what else that sit elsewhere in the apartment (atop the linen press and my wardrobe, to be precise). No, I’m only going through everything that’s been sitting directly behind me for the past five and a half years (all the better to ignore it). Things like old bank statements and bills, receipts, random clusters of Christmas and/or birthday cards, more notes, CASSETTE TAPES, if you can believe it (another collection Llew’s determined to retain) and just paper, paper, and more paper.
It’s so liberating delivering bags and bags of paper to the recycling bin. Hugely satisfying. I’ve finally gone through and cleared out Nana’s files, too, piece of paper by piece of paper. I was just too exhausted after the ordeal of packing up her flat to go through it all at the time – I just brought them home and added them to the pile of document boxes and concertina files. They fitted right in and I haven’t heard a peep from them since. Finally the time has come to sit down, get comfortable, and start opening lids.
There have been a few tears today and yesterday – of course I’ve found unexpected items, but some were entirely known and long avoided, specifically all the case files from my mother’s utterly toxic contestation of my grandfather’s will. That whole experience was so vile, so destructive, so completely awful, and glancing through the files brought so much bile rushing through my system that I’ve been battling bad reflux ever since first making the mistake of pausing to reread an affidavit or two. I still think that what she did – and what she was prepared to do – for more money was completely despicable. After a patchy history, this was the final death knell of our relationship. Her preparedness to ignore Granddad’s wishes – his final instructions to us, instructions he entrusted to her care – made our differences finally, brutally irreconcilable. And you know… it disgusted me all over again today. I try not to think about her, and I certainly try not to think about that time, but seeing the letters and affidavits again made it feel like yesterday. In the end I just piled them all together and gave up trying to sift through for the odd document to chuck. No. It wasn’t worth it. Best to simply replace the lid on all that ugliness and pack it all away.
You’re probably wondering why I’d even keep them, why I’d hang on to these court documents – because it went to court, oh yes, she didn’t care about flagrantly decimating funds from Granddad’s estate to pay for her bid to have his will overturned – and I don’t really know the answer. They seem important, still. It’s evidence that was tendered in court, and now I suppose it’s become evidence I tender to myself. There it is. If there’s ever any question in anyone’s mind about why I am permanently estranged from that hideous woman, there it is: the whole sorry mess of an already dysfunctional family finally being blown to smithereens. It does not make for happy reading.
Far, far better was coming across the stack of old emails I’d printed out back when Llew started travelling in 1998. I was still working at The Australian, saving money for my own big adventure, and the future of our relationship was terrifically uncertain. We had no idea what would happen while we were apart, and no clear status, life being what it is when you’re 24, 25 and embarking upon a world trip. But, in the end, it didn’t take any time at all – as these loving emails so clearly show – for us both to recognise that we really did have something special, and so the countdown began to the day when we would see each other again.
And here we are.