I don't think of myself as a person for keepsakes. Clutter. I want things streamlined. Involving as little housework as possible. And keepsakes I am given are a problem. Often not my taste. If I give them away I feel guilty. What can I do with them ? Sometimes you can't win. So when keepsakes turned up as a subject in the Alphabet Photochallenge I sighed. This was going to be difficult. After a lot of thought I remembered the seashells and started looking for them. Searched and searched. I knew they couldn't have been thrown away. But things had been lost in a house fire. Were they one of them ? It wasn't the fire that caused the loss but the insurance company. And although it happened years ago it still rankles. A little copper kettle, a collection of old shaving mirrors and worst of all a bread board. During the Second World War lots of things were scarce. My mother's bread board was almost worn away and she couldn't buy a new one. Her brother in law came to the rescue. Found a spare bit of wood and made an eight sided polygon. Cut the word BREAD into the surface. He'd done his best but the letters were a bit uneven. Just enough to give it a hand made charm. My mother loved it and it was used all through my childhood. One of the things I kept and continued using after she died. So losing it really upset me. Looking for the seashells brought it back to mind and made me realise I'd got it wrong about keepsakes. They mattered. Why did I keep old black and white photos of people I didn't know ? Photographs so old my mother hadn't known who the people were either. Every so often we used to look at them together. And I have a button jar full of buttons I used to play shops with when I was little. Then there's the plate I ate my porridge out of as a toddler. It has a picture of a cat reading a book on fishing and the rhyme "After looking through this book, Kitty Coo finds a hook." No wonder I turned into a cat loving librarian. Once I got attuned to keepsakes they sprang up all over the place. An inkwell like the ones in my desk at primary school. A carved shell given to me by an old landlady. A little porcelain cat a friend brought back from Japan. And stones. I seem to collect them everywhere. Particularly ones with holes in. Supposed to be lucky. There's even a Charleston frock with embroidered net panels on the skirt and a matching petticoat to make it "decent." Made and worn by my mother nearly a hundred years ago. But what about the seashells ? I found them in a little painted box I'd forgotten making for them. Very ordinary white whelk shells but each one painted with sea scenes by my father back in the early nineteen thirties. I think there was some idea of making them into a necklace but it never happened. The shells and the scenes come from Fife where I now live. My parents spent a good few holidays there. My father worked in the Clydebank shipyards so ships were his livelihood. When the war began the holidays stopped and after the war my father became ill and died just before my tenth birthday. So the shells are a real memento. They take me back to my early childhood when looking at them was a special treat. And they link to my present when I walk along the beaches they were gathered from and watch the fishing boats and pleasure boats as he did.
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