I have a Just-In-Case box. Everytime I move house, I unpack it until eventually I need to repack it to move again. Sometimes, I’ve been known to take items from the box with me on travels to foreign lands, beach walks and up windy hills before dawn. It’s the box of things I keep Just-In-Case I need to remember, to reconnect or to rekindle something in me or between myself and old friends. Adding something to the box is never easy – it’s almost always bittersweet. To keep a memory sometimes means to have lost a present reality. Like when my aunty died, or my grandfather, or my first dog.
Once the box is unpacked, you’d never realize how connected the items are to one another or what they mean but it’s how I stay connected to my memories, without feeling trapped in the past. You see, a thing doesn’t have emotions. Doesn’t have demands, a voice, a touch or a laugh that’s too easy to remember, too hard to forget. So things are a useful way for me to keep memories without being forever stuck in the history of what I’ve felt and experienced.
For a while now, I’ve been wondering whether or not the Just-In-Case box needs a clear-out, but when reviewing it’s contents scattered around my room, my office and my house I thought… No. It’s not time yet. I’m still learning, remembering and I’m still hoping to reconnect with some of the lives represented in the Just-In-Case box. But the lessons are poignant, speaking loudly to me from all the corners.
I don’t like shutting doors or stepping into a future without ‘what-ifs’. I’m such a futurist that I can’t help but always imagine a future of possibility – where the dead are only gone for a moment, everyone gets reunited in the end and endings are only transitions to new beginnings. I’m an eternal optimist. But if my Just-In-Case box helps me to hold onto hope, then it’s not really being stuck in the past is it? More like waiting on a future installment. Sometimes people are like chapters.
Just in case, I have a picture of my immediate family – sisters, Mum, my uncle and his second wife from when I was about 15. I hated posing for that photo but someone had made Dana laugh – so it’s a real moment. My sister’s hair is long and gorgeously red, Carmel is still so young and Mum looks happy. I want to remember that, just in case.
Just in case, I have a polaroid photograph of two old friends & I tucked into my mirror. It was right before everything changed and I could feel it coming like a train. I need to remember that I am brave and strong to have survived that.
Just in case, I keep a bottle of red wine I bought to share with a friend who never turned up. It’s a really nice drop, but I keep it just in case they knock on my door.
Just in case, I have a pub loyalty card from the time a friend had such a big confession to make it took 7 beers and 6 hours to drag it out of him and put our friendship back together. We drank, sitting mostly in silence until the words and beer were flowing and we had to nap in the car before we could drive. I keep it in a drawer just in case I need it again one day.
Just in case, I have a photograph of Stevie G, who died way before his time but knew how to make us all laugh with his laughter. I don’t want to forget the ones that we’ve lost.
Just in case, I have the favourite mug of the one who used to visit late into the night, drinking tea. You never know when tea might be required.
Just in case, I still have ticket stubs and tshirt from the DMB show I went to alone. I bought you a shirt, I wished you were there. I don’t want to forget what it meant to me.
Just in case, I still have the sheet music to the hymn that we sang at your funeral, the words that I scratched out to read aloud and the boarding pass from that awful flight back home.
Just in case, I have the first pair of Levis I ever owned with worn through knees and the Tiffani LP that matched them so well. Childhood was good.
Just in case, I always have a lighter, a box of matches and whisky in the house. That is the beginning of hospitality.
Just in case, I have cassette recordings of my first radio shows, the first interview Steriogram ever did and some of my best talkback work. I don’t even have a cassette player, but they exist.
Just in case, I wear nine rubies on my finger in a circle of gold to remember the values that shape my life. So as not to forget what I am worth.
Just in case, I keep a copy of the Baptist Hymnbook and every lyric, poem or scribble onto page I ever made.
Just in case, I keep American dollars in the piggybank and a San Diego guidebook on the shelf for whenever I get there next.
Just in case, I keep the books of a friend long since returned overseas in case she wants them back one day.
Just in case, I have a pretty dress I’ll never throw away because it was such a great party.
Just in case.