Cath Moore: a box full of memories

Cleaning out the shed I came across a long forgotten stash of memorabilia. It was a sweltering hot day but I sat there on the dark, dusty floor for what seemed like an eternity, transfixed by the people, places and past lives that kept pouring out.

Photos of extreme weather, on the farm where I used to live in the 1980s. One a vista of thick smoke and flames from an approaching bushfire. The other taken in winter with fields blanketed in snow and the frozen Molonglo River.

Cath Moore.Credit:

At a kid’s birthday party, looking at the camera with my gappy smile. I still remember moving a wobbly tooth back and forth as the picture was taken and that grinding sound it made. Grade six photo. There’s Caroline Ranicar; "into a tree" we used to say. A pic of me and bad girl Angela on tour with the Woden Valley Youth Choir, having snuck out from the hotel to wander the streets of some obscure Austrian village, singing Bohemian Rhapsody to bemused locals. Frail Uncle Charlie a few months before he passed away. I remember saying goodbye and knowing it really was.

And then there are the letters. One I’d written to the tooth fairy with brash entitlement: "I swallowed my tooth today plese come and leve the usual money." Deakin High School maths report from my teacher Mr Brain (I kid you not): "Catherine tried hard over the semester but found the work tough going – she may be out of her depth." I was. I still am.

Aunty Maureen, retired champion goat breeder, and her beautifully scribed letters, this one about bedding down at the Royal Canberra Show with said charges, surrounded by straw bales for padding and startlingly, "protection in case of a breakout during the night". Birthday cards from Nana, flowing cursive that made me think she was as glamorous as Liberace, whom she adored.

When I did finally emerge from the shed, I had no idea what time it was. The air smelt different, the sun was brighter, birdsong sharper. There are lots more stories and secrets in that box, of who I was and wanted to be. Most I remember like it was yesterday, others I don’t recall at all. Some I’ve no doubt revised in that temporal vacuum between the past and present. While our brain’s storage capacity might be around a quadrillion bytes, we can’t recall everything we file away. But if gratitude is the Xmas attitude, stumbling on a box like this becomes valuable currency. A cliche I’m wiling to embrace, photos and letters are gifts that keep on giving. Aunty Maureen I miss those goats (especially that buck Patrick), but I’m very glad you still write to me.

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