Friday, September 19, 2008

Once Upon A Time, In A Ratty Old Box, In A Lifetime Far, Far Away.....

The OC was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the summer of 1970. He retired from the military in 2000. In that time we lived in eleven different places in the U.S. and Europe. That's eleven, yes eleven, different houses. Each time we moved, our "Stuff" was packed into boxes, noisily taped shut and loaded onto a moving van. Except for the memorable move in which a few boxes, containing Hummels and Waterford crystal and sundry other treasures, lost their way at the end of our driveway and ended up in the back of a thief's truck instead of on the moving van....but I digress.

The challenge at the new place was to get the boxes unpacked and our new digs looking like "home" as quickly as possible. It was a daunting task, but fun, arranging familiar things in an unfamiliar place that would henceforth be home. Every day more boxes would be broken down and ready for recycling. But after the first week or so things slowed to a crawl. All the things that had an obvious purpose or place were serving that purpose, or in that place.

Years would pass and soon the excitement/dread of a new assignment would loom. And in the back of a closet, somewhere in the house that was now our home, lurked at least one box that had never been unpacked. Or if it had been partially unpacked, other orphan bits and pieces had been stuffed into it, for want of a proper home of their own, so that it was full again. And as the number of assignments and moves grew, and our family also grew, the number of boxes that never got fully unpacked at each new place grew and grew and grew!.

It was in one such that I recently rummaged successfully and found the essay in the last post. Rummaging in such a box cannot be accomplished in five minutes. Even if the first thing you pull out is the thing you were seeking.

Oh no.

We've been in this house, our twelfth home, for seven years now and I cannot seem to empty this last box. Because it is not what it seems. It's not just a ratty looking, worse-for-wear cardboard box, containing a hodgepodge of papers, cards, letters, essays, clippings, articles, recipes, high school graduation programs, postcards, leftover school pictures and report cards.........

Nothing that simple.

That plain, brown cardboard box holds little bits of my heart. Once opened it carries me back to all the yesterdays that flew so quickly by. It pulls me in for "just a peek," and hours later I'm still sitting on the bedroom floor, having laughed, and sobbed, and marveled, and accomplished the square root of nothing!

Well, I did find that essay. And even though I should have been changing sheets and getting laundry done, it was better for my soul to sit among those tattered memories. I found one folded loose leaf page with childish, spidery writing from eleven years ago.........


"My Sisters Weding."

"My family and I drove from Florida to Tenissy to go to my sisters weding.

I got all dresed up in a tucks.

My sister looked very happy she couldent stop smileing.

I like the groom like a brother.

The seromony was short.

When we got to the resepion I danced my hart out.

But I didint get to say good by to my sister befor she left on her hunymoon."



Do you know what finding a piece of paper like that can do to you when you come upon it unexpectedly? All the water that has flowed under the bridge since then comes pounding back through your head and out through your eyes. It was one of his first writing assignments in a new school at the beginning of fourth grade. He kept it short and pithy, and while it made me laugh, it also made me cry. We had just moved from Belgium to Minnesota, visiting in-laws in Florida and attending Liz's wedding in Tennessee along the way. He was famous back in those days for his daring and innovative approach to spelling and punctuation. I'm happy to report that both are much more conventional now, if a lot less interesting.

When I had finished rummaging, I put that dog-eared piece of paper back in The Box, and promised myself that, since there are no new assignments looming, I will make it a priority to get it unpacked. Before I die.

18 comments:

StitchinByTheLake said...

You really should frame that essay and give it to him for Christmas. What a treasure! blessings, marlene

Thimbleanna said...

I second what stitchinbythelake said. It's so cute! And just one box left? We've still got several -- just don't know what to do with all those keepsakes!

Ali Honey said...

If that box is full of gems like that it doesn't need unpacking....it just needs time with you, cause you won't be getting rid of any of it.Maybe if it worries you, you could transfer it to a nicer container- a treasure box!

brigita said...

how sweet.
little blessings in unexpected places!! i found a note my husband wrote to his mom when he was ten the other day. it's on our bulletin board in our kitchen. it says:
Dear Mom,
I hope some day if I have a son that he as a good personality like me.
my husband is a total riot, so that's funny, that when he was ten, he was thinking about that.
i'm so glad she kept it. so keep that somewhere special, it's a treasure for sure.

Stomper Girl said...

I approve of people who dance their *harts* out.

elena jane said...

aww, that was lovely. and yes, frame that little essay :-)

Kacey said...

You really need to unpack it now! Time flies and we never know if tomorrow will ever come. They do say "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." I, too, have some of those dark boxes and need to get a wiggle on.

raining sheep said...

What a lovely post! It almost brought tears to my eyes. I think many of us have such a box that chronicles past lives and moments. I think I need to go look into mine.

meggie said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes. I have items like that. They also reduce me to tears.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Awww. So darling.

I have boxes (brown, dogeared, ripped) stuffed with old photos of my children that I have never managed to get into albums. When I get Flip to take them down from their high shelves for me, I am transported to the Land of Reliving, and only my aching back after many hours brings me back.

There are even my own old report cards in there which are hilarious for all the teachers' notes informing my parents that I was not working to capacity.

rhubarbwhine said...

What a moving, heart warming post. I am so glad you shared this, and the writing is beautiful - both yours, and his.

PBS said...

Oh that is WAY too much moving! Moving is so much work, even though starting in a new place is pretty exciting. I reading your writing so poetic!

I took out The Not So Big Life book from the library but now want a copy of my own--to inspire me to dig through those old boxes and simplify my life!

PBS said...

OK, meant to say that I like reading your writing, it's so poetic! I must have had a case of jumbled fingers up there...sorry.

Tanya Brown said...

Oh, goodness. It sounds like that last box has treasures to equal the stolen crystal.

Tanya Brown said...

Re: this morning's blog entry, my in-laws don't believe that Nixon or his compadres were involved in the Watergate burglaries, despite the wealth of evidence, confessions and prison time. Enough said.

jkhenson said...

Oh, how I love your writing, Molly, and I think of how teary I will get when my nest is empty, looking back on fourth grade of my girls.. which is now for the youngest. Wow. I think it is a fun box. I haven't moved in ages. Maybe I will have to just make a box. ;)

fifi said...

When I was at my parents house last weekend I found my own little stash of schoolthings.
Nothing as cute as that though, even though i was transported by them, so familiar and yet forgotten.

Eastcoastdweller said...

I know that feeling, having grown up military myself. It is a mixed bag of emotions, going to a new place and rebuilding one's life.

I have maps in my head of places to which I will probably never return, and boxes of my own full of ancient (relatively speaking) memories.

The way children spell just grabs your heart strings. I have a note from years ago when I taught a church class that says simply "Thak you for theaching."