Yesterday the suitcase went home, after spending forty years in a dusty attic. A few years ago we found it there when we lifted the trap door to get rid of the rats. For something sitting in a tropical attic amongst rats, civet cats, termites and who-knows-what-else it was in a remarkable good shape.
There was still a label attached from a boat journey, Durban to the Portsmouth, in 1976 - coincidentally the year I was born. Curious about who lived in our house that long ago - yes I'm that old - we tried to find out who the owners of the suitcase could have been. But we had no luck, our search yielded nothing. Still, we could not bear to throw the suitcase away, and it became a plaything for our children.
Yesterday, when I was just about to leave the house with my visiting parents, my father spotted a lady taking photos of our house. Living in such a special, historic house, we are used to snoopers, but this woman took it to a whole new level.
When she saw us see her looking at our house, she immediately came up to apologise politely. She explained she had lived here in the 1980s with her own young family. Sensing a story, I invited her and husband, waiting her patiently in a taxi, inside to see how the house had changed. As the taxi uncle got more and more impatient, they all too soon had to move on.
It wasn't until they were saying there goodbyes that I remembered the suitcase. I recounted how we found it, and how it was probably from a family living there before them, as it the attached label was dated sometime in the 1970s. 'Yes,' the husband responded, 'we were still in South Africa in the seventies.'
And something in my brain clicked.
Yes, the suitcase was theirs! Our lady visitor was so excited she immediately insisted on taking it home with them, home being Australia where they had settled for now. The husband grumbled, we are only allowed to check in two pieces, but to no avail. That suitcase was going home!
With a smile we waved off the couple and our suitcase - now theirs again. Reunited after 40-odd years!