There’s a haunted wardrobe at the top of my parents’ house that smells of acrylic paint, dust, and burnt Barbie hair. It has no back wall – at least not one that anyone can remember ever seeing – but its indefinable dimensions are large enough to hold an entire life’s worth of detritus. Gluey art projects, moth-eaten sundresses, rows of limbless dolls, turrets of scrawled through notebooks, anything I’ve failed to throw away over the course of my life. University textbooks at the front, annotated poetry anthologies in the middle, the glint of glitter-covered art projects at the back. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that the time-line of this haunted wardrobe flips at some point and begins cataloguing my existence pre-birth: ticket stubs for movies my mother saw while she was pregnant, honeymoon photographs of my parents.
Each time I try to organise it I’m swallowed whole by its Narnia-like threat of infinity. I get side-tracked by old mix-tapes and my grandmother’s costume jewellery collection and emerge, dusty and emotional many hours later, having spent a day cataloguing my childhood diaries or putting old love letters in chronological order, but not removing a single china unicorn or tie-die adolescent crop top into bin bags as planned. If my mother has ever tried to tidy it in my absence then she’s equally powerless to its chaos (I had to get the hoarding gene from somewhere, and it’s not from my father). While my actual bedroom has become a respectable post-child guest room, the haunted wardrobe remains untouched.
A few weeks ago my old school asked me to write an article about ‘being a writer’ for their magazine. I remembered penning and illustrating a children’s book in their art room, so figured I’d try to dig it out of the haunted wardrobe. How hard could it possibly be to find an old art project in a wardrobe? But I’d forgotten that the wardrobe was, in fact, limitless. And so, this week, the wardrobe stole far too many hours of my life. At nine am I stepped jauntily inside, a grown up looking for a book in order to write an article, but by dusk I was piecing together unfinished screenplays from piles of unbound A4 paper, surrounded by miscellaneous photographs and illegible notebooks. At midnight, I was glueing a broken doll back together with out of date superglue that I found in a paint box.
I wonder how most people deal with the physical remains of their childhoods? Do normal people throw all of this stuff away? I did unearth the art project children’s book, eventually. It was called The Blue Girl, about a child with cobalt coloured hair who lived in a castle surrounded by ‘molasses black ravens, all dressed up in top hats and slightly unravelling scarves’. I was so exhausted by the time I found it though, that I didn’t have the heart to steal the memory away from its home. At around one am I left the book lying forlornly in the wardrobe, along with the screenplays and glued-together doll and the photographs. The wardrobe looks nearly exactly like it did last year, and the year before that. Perhaps one day I will come home to find the haunted wardrobe has been turned into a miniature gym or an en-suite marble bathroom, but I think it’s more likely that I will one day be buried in its indefinable dimensions amongst the smell of paint and Barbie hair.