You may never have realized the importance of boxes until, quite frankly, you become the parent in charge of said boxes or, like me, you are a single parent.
I had never quite realized how many boxes, tubs, containers and storage items my own mother kept around the house until I became that sole person, Dad, in the home. It’s not hoarding, though you might consider that the case if you looked into my own closet. It might just bear a slight resemblance to the old picture of a UK shoestore up there.
I don’t have a ton of shoes, certainly nowhere near as many as, say, my wife or my mother did. Bear in mind, though, guys tend to have a pair of black dress shoes, brown ones, tennis shoes and maybe some work boots. That’s about it.
Yet I went to the store a number of weeks ago and bought brand new Adidas shoes.
Bright red Adidas, as a matter of fact.
Yet when I was in my closet this morning I realized, just purely out of a habit I’d acquired from the last few years, that the Adidas box, along with a box for dress shoes was sitting on my closet shelf. This wasn’t because I had some affinity for boxes or thought, now weeks removed from the purchase date, that I might need to return them. No, I have these boxes up on the shelf for one specific purpose: school projects.
These are the kinds of things, when you have two parents and Mom is generally the one to be home when the kids get home from school, that Dad doesn’t contend with. Plus, Mom usually has shoe boxes in abundance. (I know that’s a stereotype, but c’mon…it’s really kind of true, right?) So when I bought shoes for my oldest daughter, my middle daughter, myself, even the boys as their feet grow to adult proportions, I kept the boxes.
Self-preservation, you see, because you don’t hear about school projects until the last-minute. Particularly with boys. So when they come to you the Friday night before the project is due obsessing about the fact they need a shoe box . . . well, you have one. Or two, as is the case for my needs.
But boxes abound for other reasons. My oldest was only home a month before heading back to work on a grant for college. A large number of items left behind need to be sent to her back at school. This is where leftover boxes from moving, guitar purchases, Amazon.com or other areas come in handy.
But I also picked up a habit from my own mother. Storage containers (not big storage unit kind of things, like Container Store tubs) are great for kids’ items. I have file cabinets full of artwork and grades and report cards, things that I think are the history of my family. My mother had one of those tubs for each of us . . . of course mine ended up unceremoniously dropped on my doorstep last visit, but it was a fun walk down memory lane. Some of it . . . well, let’s face it, was painful to remember. Some made no sense whatsoever.
There’s also a box upstairs that I kept but I never open.
Inside a small purple box still labeled “Decorator Items” from the move from my last home, is a box full of materials dated anywhere from March 26th through the middle of April, 2011. Every sympathy card, dozens of homemade cards from the kids’ school, notes, paperwork, everything from the week my wife passed away is in there.
I didn’t bury it, there’s no hiding from those events, the days still burn in the recesses of our brains. Yet there’s no need to post a shrine to the days, either. I remember the last items I placed in there. Just days after the funeral I had to pick up the last of my wife’s personal effects at the hospital. Sitting on the top are three get-well cards that, even today when I think about them, are heart-wrenching.
I don’t open that box. I haven’t in four years.
Yet that box is really the start of our story. It may be the actual spark for the beginning of our story. It’s where we put the past, keeping it safe, not buried, not invisible. We see it, we may open it and reminisce when the mood strikes us, but it’s there.
It’s necessary, just like all those shoe boxes that sit on the top of my closet.
Only this box has never been empty.