What Is Left
It took more than one year for us to finally remove all the stuff from my grandmother’s house. We kept searching through her drawers, the shelves, the wardrobe; made different piles on her bed with her jewelery, handcrafted shawls and pouches, her glasses, her photos; we collected all the love letters between her and my grandfather that she kept besides her bed – “I’m counting the days until you’re back with me: when you receive this letter it will only be ten days left!” -, looked through all her handwritten receipts and struggled with which ones to keep, the food of my childhood, the best chocolate cookies anyone has ever eaten and everybody failed at copying them until this very day, they follow the rules and use the right ingredients, but it doesn’t taste as good as hers, not so smooth, not so sweet, not so melty, just a lame knock-off of something wonderful.
How do you decide which parts of a life to keep and which ones to give away? We went from “let’s just get the cleaner guys to remove everything in here, we don’t need anything, I just want it to be done” to “I can’t call them yet, I’m not finished, there might be something somewhere in here still that I haven’t seen” and back and forth again. After one year we had removed every bit and every piece from its place, the house was a mess, we had seen everything several times, we still struggled over which things to keep and which ones to give away. It is so hard to let go of someone and all their little belongings, all the stories and memories. I grew up with her and I knew every little thing she kept in her rooms as if it was mine; I “helped” her with the baking and cooking (you know – “help” like in eat all the cookie dough) and she taught me to play the piano. We gave books and teapots to friends and family, kept the letters and photos and I kept all her yarns, the baskets full of yarns.
In the end it only took three hours for the guys to remove everything left in her flat. All the furniture, all her books, all the pots and cookie cutters. We stood there by the window and my mom said: They are throwing my life into this container, piece by piece.
[Canon AE-1 Program | 50 mm | Kodak Gold 200]
All that was left in the end was her piano. It is the one I learned to play on when I was five, we played four-handend for christmas, she held little private concerts for her friends once in a while, with sweet hand drawn invitation cards; and one of her friends always brought a bouquet of flowers for after the show, when she would shyly take a bow and be all excited and laugh and look rosy-cheekced.
I now managed to get the piano here to my place. It sits in my living room, with pictures of her on it, waiting for me to find the courage to play again.