20130402-2 Speaking of Boxes

Here’s a little story about boxes you might enjoy. I wrote it a dozen years ago.

“The Box”

The box was actually two boxes that lay undisturbed in the attic of our family home for more than thirty years.  My father discovered them when he cleared the attic to make way for some better insulation early in 2001.  Late in March as we worked together to move my sister into her new home Dad mentioned I should stop by and see if I wanted anything out of the boxes he salvaged.

Later that day he and I strolled into the garage and over to a stack of several cartons destined for the trash.  He pointed out the two he thought belonged to me.  As I knelt over the first and pulled open the flaps I was silenced by a wave of mixed emotions as I recognized the textbooks and favorite Readers Digest Condensed Books squirreled away from my freshman and sophomore years of college at Michigan State.  I had packed those books away for a move they never made. 

I had left home for good in the summer of 1970, just two years after graduating from Central High in Kalamazoo.  That summer I was off to Air Force ROTC field training in Kansas, and a Christian Music Camp as a counselor just before that.  I never had time to look back.  College, marriage, active duty, and moves to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Texas, Colorado and back to Grand Rapids started me on a new life and a journey into adulthood that left no time and no room for a few old textbooks, or even for some favorite stories.

When I opened that first box I saw the record of those early college years.  The view triggered a flood of reflections on campus life, military life, and church experiences; fleeting shadows in the life of a fifty-something graying husband and father of two nearly grown children, and further along life’s road than I cared to admit.  But those memories didn’t prepare me at all for the second box.

We set the first box aside and gingerly positioned the second one, patched together as it was with duct tape that barely held the torn sides and broken corners enough to keep the contents from spilling out.  As I pulled back the tape along the top and reached to open the flap the sight of a blue cloth cover and metal edges on an old binder stirred memories buried even deeper, memories not revisited since I made them more than thirty-three years before.  It was labeled “Music, Art, and Letters”.  In its pages were letters from the love of my life and poetry we wrote to each other.  I discovered futile attempts at song writing and favorite folk songs I used to play on my old guitar.  There were the house plans I drew after our visits to the beach and favorite quotes that appealed to my young mind. 

Beneath the binder were old classroom notes from those first college years, and the journal of my trip to New York and Washington, DC in the winter of 1968 with Methodist Youth Fellowship leaders from all over the state of Michigan.  I found mementos of my military training days, and many more treasures to explore on a cold winter day when I could spare the time.

My Dad smiled as we packed up those two boxes and carried them to my van for the trip back to Grand Rapids, and I knew he was pleased at helping me recapture pleasant memories through the pages of those old letters and books.  He sensed the importance to me of the treasure he had uncovered, but I don’t think he grasped God’s impeccable timing in this glorious find.

You see that same love of my life and I were teaching a Sunday School class on coping with life changing events.  We just finished phase one, offering tips for sorting through the work, relationships, and home baggage we each carry in our lives.  The assignment for the next four weeks was to unpack and examine our bags, sort through what we find, lighten the load, and load up what we need and want to carry with us on the journeys that lay ahead.  The next day as I sorted through those boxes on our living room floor, I thanked the Lord and my father for the perfect lesson and the chance to cherish a few old but precious memories as I carried out my own assignment, and gently re-packed a few more bags.

Good stuff folks … Terry

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