I’ve been a hoarder all my life, but it’s only recently that I realised it’s a genetic trait. A few weeks ago, I found myself in the attic of my parents’ house. It’s not the house I grew up in, so there’s only an accumulation of 7 or 8 years of forgotten sleeping bags, dust-covered VHS tapes and various miscellaneous household items. But on my search for the batch of cassette tapes that had enticed me up the wobbly ladder in the first place, I came across a box. In this box were several unopened sets of crockery, cutlery and linen – all wedding gifts that had been completely untouched since they were bestowed upon my parents. That’d be understandable if their nuptials were relatively recent, but they’re about to celebrate 36 years of marriage and have moved home approximately four times during their wedded life – I’m surprised the plates haven’t crumbled like a Egyptian mummy exposed to a gale-force wind.
Of course, I was always aware of my mam’s hoarding tendencies (very important not to omit the ‘d’, please) as a kid. The sitting room shelves and cabinets would be constantly cluttered with ornaments returned from foreign trips, various pointless family heirlooms (including a gold-plated replica of the Vatican that had suitably tacky luminous pictures of JP2 in every window) and sports trophies and medals won mostly by my brother, which I resented more and more every time it was my turn to do the dusting.
Yet, in my mission to uncover those cassettes, I found a small box of my own that contained various trinkets I’d completely forgotten about. I loved collecting things as a kid – I was especially duped by the collectible cards you’d buy for 25p a packet, which came with a small strip of nuclear pink-coloured cardboard masquerading as ‘chewing gum’. I found an entire set of Jurassic Park and Take That cards [right] (both big in 1994), and some autographed Boyzone headshots that Louis Walsh had personally sent to my sister after her own snapshots of the Boyz at the Point Depot were ruined in the developing lab. Yes, believe it or not, he’s not entirely evil.
I found a commemorative badge [below] from Dublin’s Millennium celebrations in 1988, and can still remember the moment it (and a glass tumbler with the same logo) was handed to my mam by a bored employee, as I clung to the trolley she pushed around Crazy Prices in Finglas.
I found various smooth, twisted stones I’d filched from Wexford and Kerry beaches as complimentary souvenirs, and an intact dragon-emblazoned ‘CYMRU’ car sticker which I’d never found the right surface for.
In an instant, several small pieces of cardboard adorned with images of Paul McGrath, Tony Cascarino and Kevin Sheedy [below] brought me back to the celebrations of USA ’94, hanging flags out of windows, and buying tacky tricoloured inflatable hammers in the Pound Shop. Thanks, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.
The self-indulgent hour that I spent up in the attic seemed to pass by in a flash, lifting me out of the gloomy disposition I’d initially scaled the stepladder with; that’s what happens when you’re hit with one happy, unfettered memory after another. I thought, I’m not going to complain about the fact that my old bedroom has been turned into a graveyard for suitcases, duvet covers and broken printers. I’m not going to ask my mam why she insists on keeping chargers for antediluvian mobile phones that have themselves been long discarded. There’s a perfectly good case to be argued for hoarding, and there could be worse customs to inherit, after all.