A few weeks ago my wife's grandmother passed away. Right until the end, at the grand old age of 92, she was fiercely independent; the steeliness and resolve she grew up with during the Second World War (she survived the Coventry Blitz) never left. The fact that she was loved by so many was evident at her funeral; there were so many people in the village hall that many were forced to stand due to lack of seats.
Both my wife and I have many fond memories of her nan; but what Jess remembers most is when, as a child, she would spend countless nights sleeping over. They would play in the fields behind the house, and chat until the early hours. Her nan had a giant wooden spoon, about the length of an adult arm, which Jess would attach elastic bands to and play like a guitar. She'd take it home and drive her parents mad.
Now Jess's nan has gone, it is down to her family to carry out the unenviable task of clearing out her house. Every trinket, every ornament, every couch throw has its own sentimental value, the anchor to hundreds of memories which wisp from it like threads in a breeze.
When a family member dies, and you see all the tear-streaked faces at the funeral, you can't help but wonder how your own children will react when you're gone.
Lately, I've been trying to imagine which items within the house they would hold dear, ornaments and photo frames and books which spend all their time on shelves but which might hold sentimental value.
Perhaps it's the tattered book which Jemima loves to read, the one she waddles over with before clambering up onto my lap and holding it in my face. Or it could be the bongo that Jess and I brought back from Australia, years before we had children, which Noah insists on playing all day, every day. For Isaac, it would probably be the Kindle Fire, if we still have it when we're old and grey, and he'll get all nostalgic over Minecraft.
I guess you never fully appreciate the value that you're attributing to the simplest item when you interact and play with your children. Even the quickest kickabout in the garden can create a memory which lasts for decades, and what before was just a battered old football suddenly becomes a token of your love for your child.
The giant wooden spoon which Jess once played with as a child now hangs on our living room wall, and with it the memories it holds. One day, my children will be going through items from my life, and I'd love to think they would find boxes full of happy memories.
The time for creating those memories is now.
Catch up with Figuring Out Fatherhood here.