The cupboard under the stairs

29 Oct

A combination of illness and heart carnage has resulted in weight loss that has seen me holding myself together for the last few months with safety pins, and belts with new holes gouged in them by Mrs Chook’s screwdrivers. I knew that somewhere I had a store of thin clothes but I’ve lacked the energy and interest to look for them. I always hurl everything I don’t immediately need into a vast cupboard under the stairs that has no adequate lighting so a torch is required, or one of those reading lights that fit around the head. Having light doesn’t stop me forgetting that at some point I can no longer stand up in the cupboard, and I always crack my head on a beam. Nothing is stored in any kind of order so I have to trawl through all kinds of stuff to find the one thing I need. The whole process drives me mad, but seeing as I couldn’t stand safety pins for another day, I had to do it. I found my thin clothes, which are probably vintage by now but that’s all right, vintage is good, it’s like having a new wardrobe, and the pleasure of wearing something that actually fits me is great.

In the cupboard I found my husband and me a long time ago on Bondi Beach

Arnie and me

Arnie was a very unobservant Jew, except for Passover feasts which he loved, but I never acquired a taste for gefilte fish and matzah ball soup and fortunately, he delighted in cooking them. He loved as well getting into vigorous arguments with the man from Jews for Jesus up at Bondi Junction, and if he could, he’d bale up the Hasidic Jews who lived round the corner from us and have a robust exchange with them about the Talmud. Very occasionally he would go to the synagogue, and in his seventies he started Hebrew classes. I used to say he was conflicted about his tribe, to which he invariably responded “Ah, conflicted, schmicted,” with a rabbinical shrug. When I first met my mother-in-law in Hartford, Connecticut, she said, “For a shiksa, you’re a doll.” He always said that when we die we become energy in the universe. I don’t know in which part of the universe he has become energy, but I hope I can find him.

I discovered all kinds of things in my rummaging, including Mexican kitsch I’d forgotten all about. While living there a few years ago I became fond of the Virgin of Guadalupe, not least because she is also known as the Woman of the Apocalypse, “clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.” I found her on a handbag in a market

Virgin bag

I found her in another market on earrings made from beer bottle tops

virgin earrings two

I found her on a postcard that I’ve put in a frame beside my bed

virgin photo

I found her on matchboxes and scarves, and in beaten tin that I’ve hung on the sitting room wall where she can watch over me while I sleep on the couch. She comforts me, and there are times in life when we must take our comfort wherever we can find it.

virgin guadalupe

Then I found my hair, cut off when I was twelve

Hair aged 12

And then I found this

In labour

The child I gave birth to that April day is now the father of these two

farm boys

And after being in that cupboard I like to fancy that we are all women of the apocalypse, clothed with the sun, and the moon under our feet, and upon our heads a crown of twelve stars, and if I can remember that when I go into the universe perhaps my husband will find me, and I won’t even have to look for him.

3 Responses to “The cupboard under the stairs”

  1. samjandwich October 31, 2014 at 6:03 pm #

    [wiping tear] Jennifer you are single-handedly keeping the best things about the internet alive!

    I tell you what though, at age 36 I’ve recently found myself completely smacked in the face with the importance of looking back one’s life and thinking about what you’ve done and how your experiences are worth celebrating. Regardless of what they are they can’t help but influence-determine who-you-are-and-where-you’re-headed (much as I’d give my soul for it not to be that way!!).

    I’ve also recently been going through my first experience of knowing someone whom I think of all people deserves life and continued happiness but is unfortunately dying from cancer at age 54… and trying to reconcile our apparently innate need for justice with the inevitability of life being book-ended by having to deal with things that are outside our control.

    But how much control we have! At previous occasions I’ve attempted to pride myself on being the first of the Generation Ys [no irony!], which it seems to me intrinsically entails rejecting the idea of a static or definable sense of identity… since given the complexity of the world we’re best-advised to be infinitely adaptable. I suppose it’s probably inevitable that you will pick some precious stuff up along the way though. What better place for it than under the stairs?!


    • Jennifer Wilson November 1, 2014 at 6:43 am #

      Now I’ve got performance anxiety after that first sentence.Ha!


  2. Anne L November 1, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

    Jennifer, you do have a gift for making words into pictures so clear – that cupboard is right here with me!


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