I’ve been feeling a little heavy this week, heavy and tired. I didn’t really notice it at first, but by Tuesday afternoon I recognised a familiar restlessness surface as I paused in between things. I acknowledged it, watched it and eventually made sense of it – this was a state of melancholy:
We spent last Sunday at my Gran’s old flat, sorting through her belongings, and returned home tired, with a selection of things that are neither valuable nor particularly sentimental, but useful: carefully handwashed woollens, pristinely clean ceramic dishes, a pepper mill, pieces of fabric, hats for the dressing up box… Out of context it’s a strange assortment – some things I’d never encountered when she was alive, others very familiar, but none of them able to compensate for our loss.
I’ve been glad of one particularly warm jumper – it’s been cold this week. But I keep catching myself sniffing at my sleeve. It’s her scent, you see – I’ve been carrying it around on me, catching it on my daughters at unexpected moments, finding myself momentarily stunned by it as I enter a room. Its familiarity is reassuring, disconcerting, then sad in turns. It is a strange olfactory illusion – Pond’s, pressed powder and Persil, the faintest hint of roast beef – the distillation of years – a displaced, anachronistic perfume. On Sunday we left it still hanging there in her flat, delicately, suspending time – a ghosting in the still air, but we took some away with us for good measure.
Grief, scent, they both creep up on us, come in waves and gently fade.
If I sniff hard enough now the scent is still there, but it’s beginning to be overwritten – the curry I made this morning, woodsmoke from the fire… I reassure myself: It’s all molecules. Our scents, our lives, mingle, and long after Gran’s scent fades, I will carry her molecules with me – always have, always will.
I will leave some of them with my children when I die.
Gran passed away in September.
I have so many things to say about her life and her influence as a mother, wife, homemaker, grandmother, things that will unfold as I register her life touching mine over the weeks and months ahead.