Little Matchbox

I found a little matchbox and it opened a memory door.

My next door neighbour gave me the matchbox when I was a little girl. They were called Mr and Mrs Bram, short for Abraham. It’s only now I realise how odd that seems, to shorten a surname.

Their house was full of wicker trays and hanging plant pots that Mr Bram had made despite his visual impairment. He read braille which fascinated me. There were flowery chairs and ornaments and a handful of picture books, along with a brass relief covered book I didn’t understand. Mrs Bram gave me a sherry and lemonade when Mum said I could, without batting an eyelid. She liked sherry.

It’s only now I realise how much my Mum and Dad cared for them, especially Mrs Bram after her husband died. We kept her company and did her shopping sometimes – I can clearly remember helping to put things away in the now vintage kitchen cupboards. I remember sitting on the floor, or on a little stool listening to her. There were interesting things to look through. Treasures.

Mrs Bram said, when she gave me the box, that it was in case I needed to do the “game where you had to see how many things you could fit in a matchbox”.

The box is full of the mundane. A 4d stamp, a hair grip, buttons, a miniature light bulb and a tiny piece of lace.

Then there are marvels. A tiny charm that looks like a thimble. A miniscule pencil on a string. And most wonderful a tiny white doll. I will never know where that came from and who played with it.

What use is it? None really. I have never in 41 years been asked to see how many things I can fit in  a matchbox. But of course I can’t part with it.

I haven’t thought about the matchbox or the lady who gave it to me in years, I have sketchy but happy memories of Mr and Mrs Bram.

Thinking back I remember the night she fell. I remember Mum and Dad rushing next door in the night and me being told not to worry and to go back to bed. I was too young to know what it all meant but afterwards I missed her. The new neighbours weren’t the same.

So if I had a sherry (which wouldn’t be advisable before school pick up) I’d raise it to you Mr and Mrs Bram. And to my lovely parents. For caring for our friendly elderly neighbours, just because it was the right thing.

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