Almost Gone

We’re nearly there. Not quite, but nearly. Tonight the Punchmobile is parked in the driveway and our home is stripped bare of puppets, paintings and the paraphenalia of decades of family life. A new family is about to arrive to spend a year in our home and we’ve spent every waking moment of the past few weeks packing, cleaning and preparing the house for the arrival of these new tenants and for our departure.

Both the Professor and I feel a little like the Burmese marionette in the photo. She was waiting to be packed away in a trunk for twelve months of storage. The Mexican ‘Day of the Dead puppet also met the same fate. We can’t fit everyone in the caravan.

The whole process of letting go of our lives here in Melbourne has been weirdly traumatic and not at all what I’d expected. There’s guilt and grief and confusion all mixed in with the excitement of setting out on an adventure. This morning I cried as I read a poem that one of our kids had posted on her blog. Packing up a house is more than simply putting objects into storage.

Puppets, stories and stuff

There are a lot of puppets in our house. They come from all around the world to take up residence in our hallway. On the left are Ravanna and Hanuman from Jakarta. They’re from the workshop of a fantastic Indonesian puppetmaster, Tizar Purbaya. Tizar’s house contains over 7,000 puppets so our collection of just over 100 is very small and cosy in comparison.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks most of the puppets will have to be packed away in trunks and put into storage. Only a select few will be allowed to travel with us around Australia. It will be a little strange to have to put them all away. They have watched over the comings and goings of our household for years now.

Some visitors to our house are unnerved by the long hallway of puppets and I must admit, at night, in shadowy half-light, it can be unnerving to have to walk past them. In some parts of Indonesia, people believe that spirits live inside the puppets and that you should treat the puppets with both care and respect. I can understand that feeling. Over time, I’ve learnt to respect the non-human inhabitants of our house. As we sort through all the ‘stuff’ that we have accrued in the last 20 years or so, I’m also starting to realise that if you don’t feel that an object has a ‘spirit’, if it doesn’t have a deep emotional connection to your life, there’s not much point in hanging on to it.

Tomorrow I will start lugging things out onto our nature strip for the local council’s hard rubbish collection. I don’t doubt the pile of junk will grow tall. It’s too easy to clutter your life with things that have no meaning, that don’t connect to your history, your story. In the end, it’s the stories about ‘stuff’ that give them meaning and value, not the object itself. Perhaps, when the things themselves are long gone, it is only the stories that will remain.

Kirsty is an Australian author of books for children and young adults.

“Every adult was once a child and the child inside them never completely disappears.”

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