Posted by: Louise | March 7, 2011


I like containers. I don’t collect them officially, but I have rather a lot of them. I seem to have a habit of acquiring stuff.

There is a long tradition of hoarding in my family. I grew up in the house my great-grandparents bought at the turn of the last century (that sounds so old). In addition to the sets of china and old medicine bottles in the attic, there is to this day a box of glass chimneys, for old oil lamps, they had stock piled during the war. Which war? Who knows?

The hoarding is on both sides. My Dad – Don’t throw that out. It might be valuable. My Mum – Don’t throw that out. It might be useful. I loved those moments of discovery, as a child, a teenager, a young adult when I happened upon another box/container as yet unexplored by me. Who knew what treasures it contained? Dusty old books, rusty nails, a plaster bust of a great, great grandmother.

My residing personal favourite to this day is a small cardboard box with metal riveted edges that contained what I can only assume was the contents of a drawer. You know that drawer in the kitchen that everything gets thrown into – plasters, glue, rubber bands, notes, anything that doesn’t have a home. Well imagine that drawer in the 1930s – among other things, a wooden door stop, a fake diamante belt buckle, a lump of wax for sticking pins into, a length of string, an old book of litmus paper, some pencil stubbs, a tiny, tiny tin with an even tinier roll of elastoplast, a stick of make-up wrapped in grease proof paper and a tin with the words prescription cocaine printed on it. Inside wrapped in tissue paper are some perfectly preserved white tablets…..

When you accumulate a lot of stuff, you need containers. Some of my containing is an attempt to recapture the wonders of my childhood – containers with little bits of memories inside, little pieces of time to rediscover and poke at for a few minutes, to remember and then put away again. There is a little wooden box with a few stray coins and two straws twisted and tied into the shape of rings.

K and I went to New York back in the early days of our romance. It was in February, a leap year and somewhere downtown, after a feed of jambalay on 29th February we got engaged with straw rings – until midnight, when K called time. I couldn’t find the rings when we were getting married – I wanted to tell the story – but they reappeared in their little wooden box sometime later and now keep company with the milk teeth the tooth fairy sometimes leaves behind.

Laura has a range of containers. Capturing her ethereal essence is an ongoing challenge. This space here contains those aspects of her that linger on, the parts of my ‘making sense of her loss’ that words have managed to catch in their net.

The shock of her sudden departure is contained in a little suitcase covered in butterflies, crammed full of condolence cards and one tiny little butterfly babygro.

Another box – a carved wooden box – was given by a friend, lost for words, in tears, who had searched town for something for our little girl. This is one of the very few presents that were bought for Laura. It contains fragments – fragments of her little life.

And these days, there is the thesis, the dark shadow in my life filling every available minute, whether waking or sleeping. It must be done. It must be completed. And it is all about learning through experience, finding creative ways to make sense of your life experiences. And it is all learning, Laura, learning, Laura, learning, learning, learning…..

I was in my therapy session last week, head full of life and busy-ness and “Help. The time is nearly up. The deadline for my thesis is nearly here.” And my therapist asked – What’s good about the deadline? Well, obviously I get my life back. I can bake, garden, watch telly guilt free. And then she noted how this deadline was like a container, an edge, a marker around the space. And I cried.

Laura was/is such a big part of this thesis. She was with me at it’s beginning. It is all tied up in her, the dates on the notes that I took – Laura was here then. The smell of the handcream in the drawer of my desk. It used to make me gag. This thesis is connection to my daughter in her ‘once living-ness’. At the moment, it is a container that I am still living in. The gap between Laura and I is small in this place.

And we are back to the tangle of life and loss and passing time. I want my life back. I don’t want to lose my connection to my baby any more than I already have. Time keeps moving and in its forward moving looms the edges of the next container to capture my daughter’s passing.



  1. Dearest L,

    Beautiful article – it reads & it feels like hope is creeping back into your life ever so slowly…?

    I can tell how hard it is for you to see an end to this thesis when it means closing a certain chapter of your life in some sense. But you will get it done. And it will reach the high standards you have set for yourself. And you know too that you will always be connected to Laura in everything you do, thesis or no thesis.

    Sending tons of love your way,
    mkl xx

    p.s. you found a tin of cocaine in the attic?!! Why does that not faze me in the slightest?!!

  2. This is such a heartbreaking and beautiful post..
    I have the same box for Cullen.. we decided to use it as his urn as I could never find anything more appropriate than this one. I ordered the figurine as well and have it by one of his pictures.

    I am so surrounded with emotion over your thesis.. so much of a starting point and an ending. I can only imagine how many emotions must run through your mind as the deadline approaches.. and your therapist’s words brought tears to my eyes as well. I know that as time moves on we worry about that tiny invisible thread that connects everything between then and now. If there is one thing I believe firmly, it is that the thread is unbreakable.. no matter how small.
    Love to you my friend.. and I am still very serious about offering to help proof for you.. just say the word.

  3. Thank you both so much. I know in my heart that connection will always be there. It is good to be reminded.

    Leslie – any day now I’ll actually have something written for you to proof!!


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