Monday, October 27, 2014

Little Boxes

I am a hoarder of memories. I keep them all in little boxes stored in a special Closet of Time in the attic of my mind. I carefully pack the good/happy memories in sturdy boxes wrapped in  special mental wrapping paper tied with bows, the elaborateness of the paper and bows indicating their relative value. The unpleasant/painful memories are hastily thrown into plain cardboard boxes with the flaps overlapped to close them. Unfortunately, they keep popping open unexpectedly and for no apparent reason other than to remind me…unnecessarily…of my flaws and insecurities. There are also a great many more-securely closed boxes containing snippets of memory…distinct incidents from my life which for some reason have had some indirect influence on my life.

I know exactly what is in each of the gift-wrapped boxes: holidays and family and lovers and vacations and friends and good movies and good books and laughter. I don’t need to open them to know exactly what pleasures they hold. And, to be honest, I deliberately avoid opening them because I know that to do so would force me to acknowledge that the memories they hold are just that…memories…and cannot be relived.

The plain, securely closed boxes hold a vast assortment of random memories which obviously if not specifically affected my life, such as shopping for a throw-rug with my mother while very young and, in response to being asked which of two possibilities I preferred, refusing to say for fear of hurting the feelings of the other; of being in my beloved Aunt Thyra’s kitchen and, on seeing a bunch of bananas and wanting one, being too painfully shy to ask; of leaving a May Basket at the doorstep of a little girl classmate…second grade, as I recall…on whom I had one of the very few (and fleeting) “normal” crushes of my life: of riding my bike home down the hill from Harry Morris school….

It truly disturbs me to realize that it is the flimsily-closed cardboard-box memories which seem to vastly outnumber the others. I think it says more about my personality than I would prefer to have known. They contain vivid, painfully sharp-edged memories of stupid mistakes, unintentionally hurtful things I’ve done or said, missed opportunities, and regrets. Whenever they pop open, they are like reopened wounds, and the pain they cause is very real.

Walking down the street with my dad with a bag of candy he’d bought me and not offering him a piece; forgetting the name of a young man with whom I’d been to bed two nights before when I ran into him on the street with a friend and being unable to introduce them by name; making my mother cry by snapping at her while returning from New Orleans while I was in the Navcads. (And even in the relating the contents of this one box, other, vastly larger and more painful boxes spring open—not telling the doctors to stop all attempts to prolong her life when she and I both knew it was hopeless, and after I’d promised her that I would do so.) I would give anything to go back in time and NOT do/say these things, but I cannot.

We all, I suspect, whether we acknowledge—or are even aware of—it or not, have our own little Closet of Time filled with our own assorted boxes of memories. But it is the ability to acknowledge their existence which makes a huge difference in the course of our lives.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (

1 comment:

Kage Alan said...

Your attic has the sense of familiarity to it. Perhaps we have similar layouts to ours or use the same boxes and wrapping paper. Perhaps we shop at the same store for our packing supplies?

I find that I increasingly try to halt the packing of bad memories or at least the creation of them. The efforts don't always succeed, but it has slowed them down. We'll always struggle with them. It's part of this thing we call being human.

Perhaps the one thing to remember is that while you may have your little boxes, others have them, too, and you're probably part of them, too.