We all have at least one box full of stuff we don’t need and rarely even open. It moves with you from place to place, silently putting a wall between you and your past. We don’t like visiting there and why should we when the present and the future are more than we can handle?
This box of past moves from place to place, eventually finding its way on to another shelf in another closet. Without opening it, you might be able to catalog most of its contents, but there is always a surprise in there. There’s always something in the box that you’ve completely forgotten that you still had.
I recently opened my box and ran across a rather unpleasant surprise. I also found a picture of me graduating from eight grade holding a rose and a certificate. Then, I found the rose itself nestled in a book with the certificate. All three of us were briefly reunited again years later. It was an odd sensation to have tactile evidence of a photograph I had completely forgotten about.
These items are our oldest and most personal possessions, and each item triggers a fuzzy memory, yet they live in a box. They don’t make it on our bookshelves. They rarely ever see the light of day.
Why do we keep the box? What power does that box have over us that we allow it to continue its residence in our closet all the way up to the futuristic sounding year of 2013? When that box first started to gather its belongings is anyone’s guess, but it was a long time ago. Remember when 2013 really sounded like the future? “I’ll be X years old in 2013,” we boasted. “I’ll be sooooo old and we’ll have flying cars!”
But here we are in 2013 without our flying cars. We’re X years old, if we were lucky to still be alive, yet we don’t consider ourselves “sooooo old” anymore, because X years are a reality. We lived them. We fought and scraped by and hung on to get here. We are here, in the future of our childhoods that some of us never thought we’d see. Given my past, I really never thought I would live this long, and realistically, I probably shouldn’t have. It’s a weird twist of fate that I’m still here.
The future happens whether we choose it or not. The past lives in a box. These random and haphazard items that, at the time when you first acquired them, couldn’t have less to do with each other, all now live co-mingled in our memories and in a box.
Why do we need our junior high yearbooks and letters from friends we lost contact with twenty years ago? The truth is, we don’t. We don’t need that box, but we keep it all the same. We keep it, so that the once a decade that we open it and extract its contents, we can look back and see how far we’ve come. The box reminds us of that bright future we once imagined that still doesn’t contain flying cars.
I keep my box to remind me of how far away I started this life and how remarkably long I have remained alive. Sometimes, we forget that every single day is a gift and the box reminds us. We might even add something new to the box before we seal it up and put it back on the shelf to live there again.