|Christina reads at Cider and Seduction|
My grandmother kept a junk room tucked away in the back of my childhood home. Before she moved out it was her master bedroom and contained only a few boxes of photos, scrapbooks, tax papers, and linens. She loved that room, decorating it with pictures of my grandfather who had died after World War II. I had never met him, he died before I was born, but I knew him through her stories.
So many nights when I was growing up I’d fall asleep to the familiar, sweet smell of this place. The aroma of dust and mothballs settled on boxes at the foot of her bed while 1930s perfumes hung in the air. I remember breathing in the strong scent of Rose Water caught in her damp, blue comforter.
When I was nine my grandmother moved out; she could no longer live in a house without air conditioning. Her room became a dumping ground for everything my parents hated. Her knick-knacks, pictures, clocks, coats, and other items were quickly rounded up and thrown in her room only days after she left. I didn’t venture in for weeks.
It was only after I had thrown up in the hall at school one day – not my proudest moment - that I decided to go in again, for comfort.
Soon after, I began making periodic, secret trips into my grandmother’s room. Each day I’d take a new box, bag, or pile – sifting through the black and white photos, sitting every little perfume bottle in its proper place. I’d piece together parts of stories I was told. “This doll was your Aunt Kathy’s” she had said when I was 6, “Oh, she held this doll so tight and cried when that black snake from the cotton field wrapped itself around her playpen in Florida”. I’d pull the raggedy doll out of the box, sip the story out of it like some nostalgic lemonade, and then put it back, refreshed.
It was my ritual and I don’t think my parents ever knew.
Christina coordinated the literary events for the MiR programme this year. An American graduate of the Teaching and Practice of Creative Writing MA program at Cardiff University, she runs creative writing workshops for at-risk youth and vulnerable community members across the Valleys. Her poetry has recently been published in The London Magazine, Neon Literary Magazine, and The Lampeter Review, among others, and is forthcoming in Dream Catcher Magazine. To learn more about her work please visit her website: https://collectingwords.wordpress.com/ or follow her on Twitter @writetoempower.