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What Three Items Would I Rescue from a Fire?

In a domestic emergency, it goes without saying that humans and other living creatures are first priority for rescue. Following their assured safety, my next step would be to make safe a few priority items. Many sensible people would choose to recover their money safe and important registered documents, passports etc, but though I understand the clear benefits of this cause of action, I cannot bring myself to save these items while leaving other more irreplaceable items to fry in the blazing inferno. So, my list will be as follows:

I would rescue my hand written song books. The oldest is 35 years old and dates back from the first days when I learnt to play folk music, Joni Mitchell and 1960s classics, and they saw me through years of singing at folk clubs. The four or five thick books don’t just include popular songs that I’ve learned to play and sign, with chords, guitar tabulature, transcriptions and hints for playing. They also include proverbs, phrases, pictures, photos, gig tickets etc and are as much a set of scrapbooks as they are musical tools. And as scrapbooks, many of their pages hold their own memories, much like photo albums would. I could not imagine a life without possession of these items. They basically map my entire adult existence while also leaving space for the future me to expand into. Secondly, I would rescue the wall hanging picture I spent hours creating when I first moved to Adlington. It was created from three pieces of embroidery fabric that my mum gave me as a gift when the children were very young – 12 years ago, or thereabouts. She gave me embroidery threads too, in the hope that I might find the energy to pick up sewing in the evenings, this being one hobby that had meant a lot to me before I had the children, and that my mum and I shared. She hoped the hobby would be a stress free way of unwinding and rediscovering the real me after stress-filled days with young children. I made something very unusual out of the three pieces of fabric. Me, Morrigan and Cormac were each assigned our own piece. I hand- sewed bright felt strips onto their backgrounds, then embellished with found items, beads I’d had left over from other projects, motifs from the children’s clothing, items of jewellery I’d worn during big events of my life, such as a pendant I’d worn while giving birth to Morrigan, my confirmation cross, and a Greek coin necklace given to me by an ex-boyfriend.

All these items were tied in with stitching, beadwork (each individual bead representing an individual memory), border areas and craft motifs I’d found which represented each of the three of us at that time. For myself, a miniature sewing basket, for Morrigan an artist’s palette, and for Cormac a little chocolate cake. One strip on each of the sections was taken up with our names and dates of birth. It was a kind of collage sampler, and I fondly remember going to the framing shop in Blackrod (now closed down) with my mum to put it in for framing. When we picked it up, I don’t think my mum could have been more proud of me as she said ‘I wish I was younger than you. Then I could inherit it’. In addition to all the work that went into this intensely personal wall hanging, it is also a totally unique item that says so much about me and which also represents our freedom in our new home. The final item was a tricky one to decide. Do I select the weeping fig plant I bought 30 years ago as an inch-high terrarium plant, and which now would have taken over the entire house if I didn’t trim it yearly? Do I select the teddy bears on a wooden chair that Morrigan and I chose for my dad’s birthday present – with the sign on that reads ‘God couldn’t be everywhere so he created granddads’? Do I choose my mum’s jewellery, my semi-acoustic guitar or my parent’s ultra-expensive Mouseman furniture? I probably should just for cost reasons, but I don’t think I would. I think I would select two hefty books – my dad’s MA and doctoral theses. I can sense the man who he was, before I ever knew him. I can also get future glimpses of the dad, the friend and the scholar he would become.

So, that’s my list. I wish I had allowed myself more items than this but in many ways it is a blessing that only three items have been chosen. It is a useful exercise for those of us (me included) who tend to keep too much and who assign sentimental rememberings to each item which surrounds them.

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