Friday, January 10, 2014

My Box

14 inches by 18 inches, just large enough to hold
My childhood collection of tiny elephants: ceramic, wood, and plastic;
My high school yearbook, graduation cap, diploma;
The class photos of all 13 years and those of dozens of friends;
A wood-carved camel my grandmother brought back from Egypt;
A Goofy-eared hat from Disney World;
A drawing my first boyfriend made for me;
And notes: passed to me in class, stuck under windshield wipers,
Wrinkled and rain-stained and worn.

I lugged my box to college with me, and wore the Goofy ears
To a party.  They’re under someone’s couch now, I believe.

During a move my first daughter found my box, and asked
What are all those elephants for? 
To play with, I answered, and she spent the afternoon
Constructing a circus. 

I pulled out my yearbook to compare senior photos with her.
She looks like me in the eyes, but her ears are her Dad’s.

When her two sons stayed at my house for a week,
They sorted through my box in search of crayons. 
They thought the notes looked like scratch paper,
The kind they were free to create with.

When I moved to Twelve Oaks, the kids came home
To pack my belongings.  We spent the morning folding
clothes, putting books into boxes, cleaning out the fridge.
My box wasn’t full anymore, so my stationery was added to it:
A box of assorted cards, 6 pens, and a book of stamps,
As well as the contents of my scarf drawer.

When they buried me, eleven grandchildren and two
Great-grandchildren sorted out and divided up my room.
One little girl tucked my Egyptian camel deep within
Her sequined purse, and one preteen boy thought
My graduation cap would be perfect for his Halloween costume.
Then the youngest child, ruffling through my box, asked,
Why did Grandma keep all this junk?
His mother hushed him, swallowed the lump in her throat,
Then explained in a voice mixed with respect and awe,
Honey, Grandma was a very practical person
And I’m sure she had her reasons.

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