Cyclone cleanup and the cupboard under the stairs
Every year in Darwin towards the end of the year or the cyclone season there is an event called the cyclone cleanup. This is where people scour their yards and homes for items potentially deemed dangerous in a cyclone but it also offers an opportunity to get rid of those large objects that you haven’t had time to take to the dump.
That is what I did this afternoon. I didn’t think it would be an emotional exercise, but it was. The old barbecue that we bought when we first came to Darwin with Joe our son barely made it out onto the sidewalk with one wheel falling off as I tried to coax it away from the place it had lived for 15 years. Since purchasing a baby weber Q, the traditional four burner barbecue had merely served as a platform to sit the baby weber Q on.
As you move these items out onto the sidewalk you feel that you have betrayed the trust of the object that has served you so well. I saw a documentary based in Japan where dolls and toys for children that are sent for destruction after their use are first blessed by a priest thanking them for the work they have done before they meet their end. I have to say I really respect this customary action.
A more emotional event for me was taking an old wooden door covered with corflute which is that white corrugated plastic cardboard that election posters are made out of. Our house is a two story house with stairs in the centre leading to the upper level. This provides a lovely area underneath the stairs to create an area larger than what Harry Potter had available to him in his cupboard underneath the stairs.
Joe was born and raised at a time which coincided perfectly with the release of the Harry Potter books. During our trip to England we visited Harrods of London where we purchased him a Harry Potter outfit. He wore that to King’s Cross Station where we took photographs of him at platform 9 ¾ and also when we had the opportunity to visit Stonehenge and go within the stones, Joe was dressed up in his Harry Potter outfit and proclaiming spells left right and centre. He was 2 ½ years old.
Upon returning to Australia after living in Indonesia I thought it would be a good idea to establish a door which would create a cupboard under the stairs for Joe. Our intention was not to try and recreate the harshness and cruelty of Harry’s step parents but rather to create a play area where Joe as a young boy could imagine that he was in fact Harry Potter.
We even purchased one of the owls used to scare off birds from Bunnings and place that in the cupboard under the stairs. One day when one of Joe’s friends came over and looked inside the cupboard under the stairs he saw the owl and exclaimed “is that a real owl?”
On a couple of occasions Joe slept in the cupboard under the stairs but unlike Harry Potter he was armed with a DVD player and some good movies.
Now more than 10 years on with Joe in Melbourne attending Melbourne high school and with me having not seen him for two months as I remove the door to the cupboard under the stairs and take it to the sidewalk knowing that it will be taken to the dump makes me feel both happy and sad.
I’m not sure if Joe remembers or appreciates the fact that I created this environment which was a little bit like Harry Potter’s own story, but I know that Helen and I derived as much satisfaction from his happiness when he had his cupboard under the stairs as I remember him enjoying the experience.
Whether it is building a tree house, taking your children on a trip or telling them a story at bedtime-all of these things create memories and experiences that add to the development of your child.
Although I don’t have a priest to bless these objects before they are taken away and destroyed, the fact that I’m writing about this now makes me feel happy that I’m capturing the story before the emotion of the moment departs me.
One of the things that I acknowledge is that I do collect or hoard things.
When I travel overseas I do buy something small from the place that I am visiting and the story of that place that’s in my head is transferred to the object that I bring back. To continue the Harry Potter metaphor or paradigm these items perform the function of being a rememberall and I’ll let you look that up on Google.
Although it may sound self-centred to talk about this particular event, I believe there are many people who have the same feelings when they take something out and know that they have to discard it.