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  • Writer's picturedouglas

Cardboard Boxes

Updated: Dec 30, 2022

Lockdown has brought its own challenges, one of which is limited mobility. We have to spend more time in our homes, so whilst we're stuck there, let's go on a journey of our imagination — in our own home.

In my garage I have a multitude of cardboard boxes — all shapes and sizes. I'm reluctant to recycle them because I think that one day they might be handy for something. I'm not sure what, but that's how I'm wired. One thing they have in common is that they are all empty which you would expect. But there they lie gathering dust until one day I find a use for them. One day.

We'll return to our boxes in a minute but let's now imagine you're not in a garage but in the comfort and warmth of your front room — or the room you feel most relaxed. From your favourite chair you are aware of the cupboard in the far corner, maybe there is a piece of furniture in front of it because you seldom open the door because you seldom use the cupboard. You think back on the last time you used it and you also try to remember what might be stacked on the shelves — you think: unused rolls of wallpaper, some books, glass jars holding needles, pens, tubes of glue. Wool left over from a jumper you started to knit. You recollect a scarf and hat which you used to dress a snowman the last time it snowed — how long ago was that — three years? Four years? What else is in that cupboard?

You leave the comfort of your chair and head towards the cupboard door. You have to move the table with the lamp. You notice the handle with a thin film of dust on it which you disturb when you place your hand on top. The musty smell hits your nostrils which doesn't surprise you, but what does surprise you, are the boxes, the cardboard boxes. They are of similar shape and size neatly stacked on top of one another. Forty, maybe fifty of them. There's no sign of scarves, hats, wallpaper, books, glass jars — just lots of boxes. Each boxed is wrapped in coloured paper — gold, scarlet, yellow, turquoise, all the colours of the rainbow and more besides. Beautiful, like Christmas presents, waiting to be unwrapped. Maybe they are Christmas presents.

As you stare transfixed you also notice that on each box there is a white label, not with your name or indeed anyone's name, but other descriptions like: chief regrets, lost opportunities, if only's, poor decisions, major disappointments, hurts, soured relationships.

Some of the labels are blank with no descriptions, maybe half of them. There is something else which catches your eye — a black marker pen. Although no-one else is in the house, you still check over your shoulder just to make sure, and then you pick up the pen and write on the blank labels . . . what do you write? What do you want to let go of? What's on your hit list? Who's on your hit list? What are the things that stop you from being truly happy? So you write on your blank label. When you finish, you place the cap back on the marker and lay it on the shelf. Job done.

You decide to take some of the boxes from the cupboard thinking that you may have a use for them. You could store letters in some, or photographs or bits of writing, art work, anything. You take one of the boxes with the pretty paper and the label which resonates with you. It's surprisingly light. You select other boxes until you have nine, maybe ten in your arms. They come up to your chin and you balance them carefully. With your foot, you shove the door shut and make your way into the centre of your room carrying your personal boxes when the doorbell rings. Who could it be? You head towards the window, making sure you don't drop any of them. You notice that there are some people at a neighbour's door, they look as if they are collecting for a charity. The doorbell rings again. You move towards another window still carrying your boxes, but you can't see your front door. What you do see is a wee girl running across the road, falling and scraping her knee. You can't hear her cry but you know she will. You'd like to help but you can't, you're carrying boxes of past regrets, major traumas, disappointments, if only's. The boxes are getting heavier now but there is nowhere to put them and still the doorbell continues to ring.

'It's open,' you shout. 'The door is open.' You stand in your hallway holding your boxes, which come to your chin waiting for some response from your visitor.

'I've come to take your boxes away,' they say. They reach out their hands until they touch yours. You feel the weight of them go and your arms relax. You watch as the stranger carries your traumas away. Something/someone is pulling at your leg. As you look down — it's the wee girl who had fallen on the road. You can help her, now that you are free of your burdens.


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