December Reflections 15: yellow


My brother cut this Easter chick out from hardboard with a jigsaw sometime in the nineties, and painted it yellow. Originally it was attached to a cocoa tin with some masking tape, and the tin filled with chocolate eggs. Twenty years on, it does service as a coaster. I shouldn’t be surprised if it’s still somewhere around the house in another twenty years. It’s the sort of thing that sticks around. ‘Your uncle John made that, you know.’

I’ve been thinking a lot about legacy this year. Sometimes it’s about physical things. Last year I read The Hare with Amber Eyes, which got me thinking about family history and the significance of objects. Things like what this yellow chick will be in fifty years, if nobody’s thrown it away by then, or the ivory crucifix that a first cousin twice removed left me, or my camp blanket. Things that are significant because who made them or bought them or gave them, or how long they’ve lasted.

Sometimes it’s about the various campaigns and organisations I’ve been involved with over the years, although I’ve managed to become reasonably good at moving on from them, and at letting them move on.

Sometimes it’s about the question of children, which could (still) go either way.

And sometimes it involves me giving myself a stern telling-off, because two books deposited at the British Library ought to be enough legacy for anyone. Oughtn’t it?

It occurred to me the other day that really legacy is about immortality, about retaining control. It is about trying to ensure that somebody else will care about the things I care about now, when I’m not there to care about them any longer. And whether that’s ‘there, at that particular university’, or ‘there, in that county’, or ‘there, on this earth’, I have no way of guaranteeing that. I could, through bribery or emotional blackmail, induce somebody to take care of them, but I cannot make somebody care about them.

I know that in the long run none of it is important at all. Things change, everything ends, and many of the things that are important to me now won’t matter at all in a hundred years’ time, and in a thousand none of them will matter.

So what do I do with that? I suppose I just have to let things be important to me, if that’s what they happen to be at the moment, and to accept that the things that are important to me may not be important to other people, and to trust that somebody will see their importance if they’re as important as all that.


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