The time had come. After 14 years my father was moving house and he needed me to sift through my boxes of belongings to help him downsize. ‘Keep, chuck or recycle’ was the mantra that played in my head as I made the journey to England last month. It sounded easy on the plane as I tried to remember what was tucked away in my plastic crates in the loft. It wouldn’t be that hard, I convinced myself. Some stuff will be obviously treasured items that I would want to keep for sentimental reasons, but most of it will be things that I had forgotten I even had, trash that could be easily discarded without a second thought.
Pack up, clear out, and move on. It’ll be cleansing, I thought, as I arrived at my father’s house in the south of England on a sunny September day.
But I was wrong. I wasn’t prepared for the unlocking of emotions that came from opening those boxes. Dozens of times over the weekend I opened the lid and exclaimed, ‘No way!’ as a comic book or a childhood trinket resurfaced before my eyes after 14 years.
A Subbuteo table football set that my father and I played ad nauseam during my childhood brought back a flood of happy memories. A rugby ball signed by South Africa World Cup-winning captain Francois Pienaar took me back to the early days of my career in London in 1997. A toy telephone I played with as a kid when I went to visit my Aunty Una. A shopping bag of curled up football pennants from clubs like Anderlecht, Schalke 04, and Feyenoord that my father brought back for me from his European business trips. A Vietnamese wooden figure I bought on my travels during a career break in my 30s. Stacks of letters, school reports, birthday cards, posters, concert tickets and postcards from when I was a teenager were so nostalgic they put a lump in my throat.