I am surrounded by packing boxes. They spill their contents like urban rubbish bins. We filled them up in one life and now we’re unpacking them in a different one. Without the packing cases I’d move on more easily. It’s really only all this stuff that attaches us to the past. I have driven along our old road and looked at the houses where the people opposite live. People whose lives I have known, although I have not known them; who no doubt casually observed ours too. They’re usually not at home when I pass by. I wonder what they think of the change that has happened opposite them. Do they think about it at all? Have they noticed?
I see a little bit of grey material underneath the top layer of one of the boxes and give it a tug. Up it comes from the depths as though a lucky dip win. It is my daughter’s old coat, a little crumpled, very small. The label says age 2. Three buttons are aligned each side of its double-breasted front. On each the smiley face on a luminous sticker grins out. Already I have difficulty remembering where they came from. I think they were given out each time we went to a little toddlers' art group. Placed there perfunctorily by the kind lady who ran it, but well-loved by my daughter. Now I remember. A different time. A different place. I suddenly feel a keen sense of change; of loss. But of course we haven’t lost anything. Just time. I want to wrap my daughter up in her little coat and transport us back to those days, simply because we can never return.
My daughter wanders into the room and comes towards me. “What are you doing daddy?” she asks.
“Just unpacking” I say.
“That’s my coat!” she exclaims “Oh! Look at all the little faces.”
“Daddy...” She says. “Do you think the little boys and girls in my old school miss me?”
“I’m sure they do” I tell her supportively. “Do you miss them?”
“Uh, well, not really” she says. “I like my new friends more.”
I smile again and put my arm around her shoulders. Then I fold up the coat and put it into the bottom of a drawer.