OUR FAMILY’S NEVER been very good at ‘family’. When my nephew was conceived my sister and I weren’t even speaking, some silly argument about my Northwestern Wildcats T-shirt she’d borrowed when she was sixteen which came back filthy weeks later, torn with a smudge across its logo. At the time she said it was an accident, that I was making too much of it, that the stain would probably come right out if I took it to the drycleaners, their chemicals able to dissolve almost anything (though it never did), besides which, what right did I have to be upset when decades earlier I’d borrowed her copy of The Snow Queen without even asking and then lost it and hadn’t even apologised?
That was the same year that Mum chucked out our Fair Isle jumpers, just after we got back from Chicago, eight months into our eighteen-month stay, departing from the bitter chill of the northern winter into the morass of a scorching summer daze, jetlagged and distraught, the searing heat of a Melbourne February no place for woollen cable knits even if they had been hand-made by our grandmother. Days later Mum said she wished she hadn’t done it, that they might have made nice keepsakes she’d realised, but by then Dad was well and truly dead, his lithe body rigormortised into its own semi-rigid phase, and it was too late to change her mind: the rubbish had been collected that morning.
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