The Boxes

God is in it all. The mundane, the crazy, the life-altering zesty life things that come at us every day. But how often do we see it? This blog was about sorting boxes but the God Echoes would not stop coming. They are in italics. You can read this piece with them, or without them, either way.

Boxes. Boxes and boxes. In these boxes are memories. Baby shower cards and diplomas and finger paintings. Coins and yearbooks and a newspaper from the day each child was born.

I am not a saver by any stretch and my beloved children will tell you that I am practical to a fault. So why are there so many boxes on my dining room table?

In all fairness, I blame my mother.

Back in ye olde days of April, when the world was ending, my mother’s somewhat panicky voice – the one that lives in the back of my head – spoke up:

What if?

What if I lose the last fifty years of memories to fire or earthquake or some other chapter of Revelation? To locusts or rats, or *gasp* outdated tech?

What if the world ends and I haven’t organized it yet?

We can’t let that happen.

And so, in April, I gathered every box from the basement, attic, and closets. Cleared out under the bed and emptied my cedar chest with one goal in mind: turn all of this overwhelming why-did-I-save-that pile of flotsam into a future-proof time capsule.

A little Noah’s Ark.

When the world as we knew it was going to end, God thought it was important to bring the past forward into the new future, too. My fifty years counted. Noah’s 600 years counted. For better or worse, we can’t act like they didn’t happen. God does not erase our past, He offers a better future. The mosquitos and the ants were on the ark.

I opened the first box and lifted out an infant onesie, covered in tiny yellow bumblebees, stained on the front, snaps in place, and I was undone.

And now I know how Noah must have felt on the other side. And why he needed a drink. We don’t get to go backwards. Be still, my heart.

The child that wore this tiny scrap of fabric is no longer interested in it, but I was transported instantly to a place where he was. I was holding the memory for him. Literally.

If there are parts of our past that are too heavy to carry, poop that happened in the infancy of our relationship with Him, entire boxes of memories we would rather forget, know that He holds those closest to His heart because it represents how much you’ve grown. He wouldn’t trade that journey for anything.

My memories will never mean as much to anyone else as they do to me. And that’s okay. I would like to keep them, please, just not in so many boxes.

It’s nice to know God has an attic that stretches to infinity. I’ll let Him keep the boxes.

The next generation has no concept of my anxious task. Their memories go directly to the cloud.

You see? Safe. Likely decorated that attic door with a rainbow or two. Typical proud parent.

Mine are in a cloud, too. A dust cloud. I march my memories, two by two, across the scanner, and this, too, results in another memory.

The Year Mom Sorted the Boxes.

It took Noah over a hundred years to pull the ark together. He probably paced himself. I guess I shouldn’t whine about six months.

The little time capsule, filling and thrilling, reminds me that life is full of good memories when you stop and pay attention to them.

And now I can carry them on a lanyard around my neck, close to my heart.

Mom always said, “Look where you’re going.” Since the past is not where I’m going, I will only spend a little more time looking down instead of up. Whatever happens next, my past and my future sit safely in the cloud. And we will not be forgotten.

He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart. Isa 40:11

Dear Class of 1986

The reunion check is in the mail.

I just can’t believe it’s been thirty years since we graduated high school.

I filled out your questionnaire and sent it too, but I admit that it took me, a writer, longer than expected to fill in the answers.

For example,

“Is there anything you know now, that you wish you would have known in high school?”

“Yes – to stop doubting myself and jump off more cliffs, because I really was meant to fly and breathe fire.”

Well I was.

Also wish I had invested every penny in a company called “Target”.

“Where will you be in ten years?”

This is the part where I just can’t help myself because I know we’re going to have to read this at the next reunion in ten years, and if I put something specific, I’m basically challenging myself to pull it off on a time line and that is WAY TOO MUCH STRESS.

“Changing the world, making a difference, and passionately parenting.”

That feels safe.

Vague, yet impressive.

I can pull that off in numerous ways and in ten years I’ll nod and say, “My writing/speaking/teaching/baking cupcakes has sure done that all right.”

And I just can’t think that I’ll be running out of parenting issues in ten, twenty, or infinity years.

Set myself up for success in that arena, anyway.

*eye roll*

*shakes pompons* because of next question.

“Favorite Quote:”

Attitude is Everything.

*weak smile*

“Favorite Book and/or Movie:”

My bible, trite as that sounds.

If you read the same book over and over your whole life, surely it qualifies.

Spoiler Alert: the book was better than the movie.

But seriously, what are we supposed to put there and why? Legions of books under the bridge, I really wanted to say, “The book I wrote, of course” but that’s a fib because I haven’t actually published one yet.

Rats.

“Anything else you’d like to share?”

“Yes! But I put it into my blog because there are way too many words involved.”

Right?

“Is there a favorite high school memory you’d like to share?”

Okay, this is where I got all kinds of conflicted. I put the pat answers instead of what I really wanted to say. It’s a reunion, after all, and people are trying to be all nostalgic and starry-eyed about a blip on their life timeline.

“Writing for yearbook, being the Pep Club at football games, graduation day.”

That last one is a hint.

Because for me, life started after high school ended, and when you live your life on “fast forward”, looking back makes me cross-eyed, not starry-eyed.

If you’re sitting there on the fence that now circles our high school and stopped off-campus lunches forever, let me suggest that our reunion is no longer a popularity contest.

You have permission to not look 18 anymore. You have permission to not act 18 anymore. You are encouraged to show your well-earned battle scars because we all have them. I will not notice if you have genuine Jimmy Choo on your feet; I will notice if you have genuine caring on your face.

I am more interested in who you are now than who you were then.

Some of our classmates didn’t need a reason to party and plunked their money down, no questions asked.

They remember all the dance moves.

Sure, I made some friendships that have lasted – oh, wow – over thirty years, and I got my diploma and have a handful of memories involving Homecoming and Prom and the way my girlfriend and I used to drive across town during lunch and see our boyfriends at the rival high school (we’re such rebels) and come back late to Mr Sodeman’s Civics class and bring him a donut so he wouldn’t mark us tardy.

And the way projecting MTV music videos onto the gym wall during dances made us feel so turquoise eye-shadow cool.

And trying to decide whether cloisonné or giant plastic jewelry was a better bet.

Legwarmers. Hair scrunchies. Knight Rider.

Remember going to the movies (Remember when Romancing the Stone came out?) and getting Fenton’s ice cream? Remember cruising down Valley, trolling for other cars full of teens? Remember wearing poison-green tights under a denim mini-skirt and hair bigger than a Buick?

Okay, maybe we’ll have some selective memory lapses. Good plan.

Whatever happened to the guy I was a library aide with? Was his name Steve? I’ll have to dig out the yearbook and check. Where did all my wallflower friends end up?

I hope they are somewhere flying and breathing fire.

I hope they come to the reunion and sit at my table.

Don’t let the oldies station on the radio fool you.

The 80s are far more than classic.

They were epic.

 

The Girl in the Cedar Chest

Definitely, I am in deep trouble here.

I’ve gone and opened Pandora’s box and now I’m on my knees and up to my elbows in memories that won’t stay in their tidy little packages. I only need one, thank you. If my elementary school awards and the cards from my wedding would kindly step aside, I could reach over and just pick the photo up.

Ugh.

My mother gifted each of her three daughters with a cedar chest when they turned sweet 16. She still has hers from a million years ago, full of bits of her life.

I’m sure she had no idea that she was entering us in the game of Jumanji when she did.

Or did she?

Traditionally, a ‘hope chest’ is to store treasures in that a young woman prepares for her future wedding and home. Theoretically, once those goals are accomplished, it gets refilled with memories.

I guess that makes me traditional, but if I had hoped in other things, I would be storing didgeridoos instead of doilies and a ceremonial British bearskin instead of baby bonnets.

It’s perfect to store linens in – who does that? – but I pretend that it does, so that I am not sucked into the abyss.

It’s for my own protection.

You know that job I just got? It turns out that the office gals are throwing a potluck this week and the ticket in is to bring a photo of yourself as a kid so that everyone can guess who is who.

Those kidders.

This is what happens when you didn’t go the traditional route and don’t have enough of this nonsense in your home life.

I have baby photos of me, Hubby, and five kids, and they all look exactly alike. I tried putting dates and ages on the backs a few years ago, and it was Russian roulette.

Those mountains of photos will come out one holiday, soon, and I’ll just let everyone decide who they want to be.

Why should I have all the fun?

But I couldn’t figure out where all the photos went. We moved, as you recall, three years ago. All photos made out of paper were carefully boxed up and put in a safe place.

Where ever that is.

In this age of digital everything, they might be with the boxes of items “to scan someday” or they might be in the den behind the college textbooks that Hubby refuses to toss out or they could be in the Harry Potter closet under the stairs where I set things aside for proper aging, like cheese.

Then the drumbeat of the cedar chest called me as I walked past saying, “Here, look in here.”

So I rolled the dice, entered at a college term paper and waded through the perfume bottle swamp, turned right at my great-grandmother’s piggy bank and found stuff from the family tree.

Bingo.

One black and white portrait of a chubby toddler.

It’s me because my mother has carefully said so on the back of it.

Or, it could be one of my sisters, trapped in the game and stuck with my name on them, until someone rolls a 5 or an 8.

Oh look!

The stories I wrote when I was ten, and here’s the savings bond I won with them.

I wonder what it’s worth now?

I should read these, it won’t take a minute…