strange days

Today I had to provide my IRD Number for my tax return. In some ways I am very organised - my art supplies are all boxed and ordered; my patchwork fabric is all washed, ironed and folded into behandled wicker baskets so I can find the colours I want easily; my books are all ordered on their shelves according to subject and size. My financial/accounting papers aren't quite so ordered. They are in fits and starts, but not well enough to put my hands on my IRD number at a moment's notice.

During my search I decided to open two folders of personal papers. I'm thinking most people have this kind of thing in a filing cabinet or shoe box somewhere in their lives. These are personal things including old school photographs, reports, letters of recommendation, love letters - personal things that are precious to me for one reason or another.

And I was fine, really, with most of the things. Reading my old school reports: my earliest one I have here is from Standard 1 which would have put me at around 8 or 9 years old. "Michelle's reading and comprehension has improved greatly" yes Ms.Can't-follow-an-instruction. I love the comment from my Form 2 Social Studies teacher "Good in discussion, little effort in class" story of my life really. Spelling and diction "little effort" Reading "satisfactory" oral expression "good" written expression "not satisfactory, could be better" Funny, as I read that nothing's changed since then - still can't spell, shutup or make up stories.

Photographs of me through the years: this one when I was 4 at the beach with my mum and brother - dad obviously taking the photo, that one when I was 18 and Greg made me climb down the face of that rock and I burst into tears from fear of falling to my death right after he took this shot. This one of me in my wedding dress, veil blowing madly in the wind outside the church before walking down the aisle to marry Greg, and this one as when I was Sara's bride's maid and had just found out I was pregnant with Simon. A photo of my brother my Uncle Peter took and Wayne told to "take that fucking camera out of my face" the very second after the shutter clicked. The invitation to Bridget and Chris' wedding with Richard Hadley's signature on the back, the ticket to David Bowie back in 1983 at Western Springs.

Then I saw the envelope.

After Alan died, I gave my sister-in-law the letters he sent me when he was in Germany. I thought it would be good for their girls to have something of the man who was their father. His own words in his own hand. He used to write _so_many_words. Thin unlined yellow office paper and line after line of biro with the funny pen-grip he had. I gave the letters to his children, but I kept an envelope. It's coloured in - he's written the words "LUFTPOST" and penciled colour into them. He addressed the letters to me - not to his brother, Greg - but to me, his sister-in-law. God knows why he wrote to me so much, I bet I didn't send much in the way of anything back to him. It's taken me years to get a clue, and I wish so much I had sent him more mail in the 2 years he was away.

If wishes were fishes, and all that.

It got me thinking of how lovely Alan was with me. How he, alone, in that fucked-up family he came from - liked me, and understood me enough to nearly always do the exact right thing by me. Christmas and birthday presents were always small and thoughtful and right, he used to spend time with me when his family wasn't around - just come and "be", and he always knew how to catch my eye at all those god awful awkward family functions where I always managed to be on the receiving end of backhanded compliments and sharp tongued insults.

Amongst all my "treasures" that envelope is my most precious. But it makes me cry to hold it and look at it and remember so many things. Cry for the good things, cry for the knowing and cry for the missing. And cry fo the regret of not being a better person for the good people in my life who deserve more than I manage to give.