I don’t know if it’s like this with you, but my street is currently strewn haphazardly with poor, abandoned Christmas trees. It was only a matter of days ago that we were ooh-ing and ahh-ing over their beauty and splendour and now, naked and forlorn, they have been cast aside and quietly await their rapture.
And it’s not just Christmas trees that get the chop at this time of year. January seems to be the time to rid ourselves of all the clutter that has been burdening us for the last twelve months and to make a clean sweep of our homes and our lives. And rightly so – a fresh start is enough to propel us into the new season with determination and optimism.
Nevertheless, I can’t help thinking that it’s not just junk that we’re cleaning up and clearing out for good.
Attached to each culled item are these tiny little, silent things – utterly invisible to the naked eye, yet worth more than gold. They cling on for dear life, hoping for a moment’s recognition. They’re actually the source of many a conversation and the inspiration behind countless books and films. In fact, each time an artefact is used it mysteriously collects more of these barely noticeable things.
These things are, of course, memories.
If you’ve recently cleaned out your cupboards or shelves or under your bed, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ll no doubt have paused at times upon determining the fate of some innocent jumper or teddy bear. With flashbacks to parties or childhoods or people or places, you’ll have been torn between the decision of whether to hold on to these fragmented memories, or to allow yourself the opportunity to forget.
If you’re anything like me, afflicted with a very poor memory, these seemingly inconsequential keepsakes are often all we have to remind ourselves of fragile moments of our past … of our history even! When we rid ourselves of the very triggers of these memories, does our past disappear with them? Where do they go, these memories that make up who we are?
Don’t let your imagination get the better of you – I’m not some hoarder living under a mound of newspapers from the 1920s. I’m all for living for the present and embracing the future, but I can’t deny the value of the past and all we can learn from it.
I occasionally feel this same sense of sadness when the time comes to get rid of a nailart design. Some patterns are easy to remove. I’ll have built up no connection to them, and I’ll happily apply the nail varnish remover while watching a movie, without so much as a glimmer of remorse (a prime example were the stamping plate nails of yesterday).
But every so often there’ll be a design that I sweated blood over, poured out hours of my life trying to master. It will have sparked countless conversations, travelled to some unbelievable places and have stored up dozens of memories over the course of its short lifespan. (Cue my New Year’s Eve nails.)
Call me sentimental, but when I eventually build up the courage to remove ones like these, it actually feels like a tiny piece inside of me dies. It sounds dramatic and you’re probably thinking ‘Why do I do it to myself if that’s how it makes me feel?’
I already feel a heightened sense of attachment to the modern art installations that have most recently taken up residence on my nails.
I know very well I can’t keep them on forever, and of course there’s the excitement over what the next design will hold, but as someone with a terrible memory, I can’t help thinking that when the nails go, so will a part of me.
Photos help of course, but aside from having an endless parade of paparazzi following your every move (gosh, celebrities have it so good!), I don’t really have an answer to any of this.
Maybe we’re just to appreciate the ethereal, ephemeral nature of these intangible memories that seem to come and go unannounced and trust that the ones worth keeping will forever be immortalised within us.