I’m selling the house in which I grew up and am in the process of emptying it. This includes my bi-polar mother’s trophy cabinet.
She took up the piano again about a decade ago when my dad retired and has had a slowly growing cabinet full of awards she would always point out to guests who’d come over for dinner. It was a ritual she’d go through ever time we had any kind of gathering where she’d pretend not to want to draw attention to the glittering rows of statuettes and cups. Oh, how I remember well the cold winter day we bought it. We had to shoehorn the cabinet (she needed one that could have light installed) into the back seat of the car when the collection was too big to fit on the mantle. I remember because there were three of us, it was winter and I had to get left behind in the gloom and cold because the six-foot tall cabinet left no room in the car for me.
While I do appreciate music, I’ve never been to one any of her recitals and therefore assumed that when I heard her struggling through a piece (sounding rather to me like Dr Frankenstein on a Bavarian organ in some mountain top retreat in a Hammer film), it was because this was some sheet music that she was in the process of learning; or that it was a difficult number that she wasn’t able to yet play at speed.
I mean, what else was there to think?
After we moved her to the retirement residence, I had to move her trophy cabinet and its contents to her new flat from the family home I prepared for emptying the trophy cabinet by assembling sheets of butcher paper, string and many tomato boxes to protect these hard-earned awards. After the first two were bundled and boxed, I began to notice something. In retrospect, I should have known. It was when I stood there watching the snow fall through the window, holding a chipped plaque with a ringuette player that read ‘Bronze — 1982′ that the scales fell from my eyes.
The two most prominently-displayed cups that I had packed first were truthfully her own. One for participating in her first year recital and one for being the best in her age group at that event. The other trophies — all of ’em — were sporting and other awards she must have bought at second hand shops. I can still see the patches of glue where the aluminum name plaques were prised off. Lacross, Hockey, and other generic Graeco—Roman plastic trophies, plus one ‘Swim for Israel’ — we’re not Jewish — made up the rest of the contents of the over-full cabinet.
And they keep begging us for children!