Today I started upon a task I’d not been looking forward to: clearing out Juliet’s clothes. Previously I’d cleared out just a single drawer in her bedside cupboard, and that was upsetting enough. In recent days I’ve resolved to start afresh with what used to be “our” room (the bedroom) and is now of course “my” sole room. I’m going to redecorate it – at least slap a coat of white or cream paint on it, change the pictures – and remove J’s dressing table.
This was not something I ever used anyway, and since her death almost exactly five months ago, I’ve not done anything different. In fact I’ve treated it literally as part of the furniture, it’s not something I use or really notice any more. So it’s dead space – an unfortunate phrase. I’ve recently realised that I could put a bookcase there and relieve the overflowing shelves in my study. But I’ll only do this when the rest of the room is sorted, which will give me an incentive to do that.
On and in the dressing table is the usual assortment of women’s stuff: a ton of make-up (although J didn’t use much). Make-up tools, some of recognisable function and some not. Jewellery of course, nothing of any value, except sentimental. Paper flowers, cards and models made by the girls. Almost every birthday card, Valentine and Mothers Day that I’d ever sent her and many that the girls had made for her. A letter from me to her written on 13 January 1988 (so almost twenty-four years ago), reassuring her that I still wanted to marry her later that year and that I was still her best friend. The tears were already flowing by this point. Lots of Australia souvenirs – postcards, luggage labels, coasters. Tickets for a Kylie Minogue concert and a visit to the V&A museum. Broken hairbrushes, hairclips and nail files.
There was also a piece of paper with lots of pink love heart “post-it” notes attached, each saying “I Love You” and numbered, 1 – 32. This was a romantic gesture by me some years ago. I can’t remember in which house, but basically I posted these post-it notes all over the house – inside the washing machine, airing cupboard, fridge, on the iron, inside drawers, etc. – and over the next few weeks she gradually found them all, unexpectedly, while doing normal household chores. I have a feeling that she never found one or two of them as I forgot where I’d put them all.
Margaret helped me pack up the items and put aside some stuff for the charity shop (not much) and throw some stuff out (not much). And passed me tissues.
Then we moved onto J’s wardrobe. It’s not that I need the space, I just don’t want it to become a museum, which nobody visits. We picked out some of the easier wins, a couple of garments that I didn’t recognise and some old dressing-gowns. Lucy vetoed my getting rid of a more recent dressing gown, that was OK, it went back into the cupboard to be considered another time. We packaged up some of her nicer dresses into suit carriers.
I found my wedding suit!! with a moth hole in the arm and a handkerchief – used! urghh!! – in the trouser pocket. The suit I saved, as Juliet had, the handkerchief went in the bin (I haven’t used them for years). There was an old pink sweatshirt that I had bought J from Rochester, Minnesota back in 1997 and which she used to do house painting in. So Margaret cut out the logo for me and we just kept that.
We didn’t get onto the more recent clothes, nor her “naughty knicker drawer” nor several other drawers, but it’s a start. It took much, much longer than I thought and was very draining – crying takes it out of you. We’ll have another go at it another time. “Tomorrow is another day”, as a late family friend used to say, but it will probably be in several weeks’ time rather than tomorrow.
And because these photos are rather depressing let’s finish with a nice portrait of J from a New Year’s Eve party in 2007.