Box of Me

Some men’s memory is like a box where a man should mingle his jewels with his old shoes.
~George Savile

Louisa May Alcott wrote, in Jo March’s voice, of the treasure boxes Jo and her sisters kept in the attic. Part real, and part metaphor, these collected the essence of each of the four “Little Women.”

“Jo” on the next lid, scratched and worn,
And within a motley store
Of headless, dolls, of schoolbooks torn,
Birds and beasts that speak no more,
Spoils brought home from the fairy ground
Only trod by youthful feet,
Dreams of a future never found,
Memories of a past still sweet,
Half-writ poems, stories wild,
April letters, warm and cold,
Diaries of a wilful child,
Hints of a woman early old,
A woman in a lonely home,
Hearing, like a sad refrain—
“Be worthy, love, and love will come,”
In the falling summer rain.

– Louisa May Alcott

For Café Writing this month, we are asked to list seven things that would be in our own treasure boxes.

The lid of my keepsake box bears no name; the box itself is made of dark walnut and is very simple. It was hand-made just for me, by my mother’s only brother. At some point over the years, the back piece, which was merely decorative, was lost. Originally a place to store toys, it now sits at the foot of my bed. What does it hold? Here’s a list of what may or may not be inside.

  • Zorro’s paw prints, invisible to most, indelible to me, for he uses this box as his step onto our bed, and sometimes curls up on the blanket draped across it.
  • Letters my grandfather wrote to me during my childhood, painstakingly printed for the eyes of a young girl who had not yet learned to parse cursive writing.
  • Barbie and Chuck (not Ken) and their wedding party, all in couture from my mother’s sewing machine. If you listen carefully, you can hear the echo of her voice cursing the teeny, tiny darts she had to make.
  • Spiral notebooks full of old stories and bad poems, some going back to 1975, which is when I really began writing. (I was five). Some are covered in doodles, some are not.
  • Ballet slippers and tap shoes, all sized for tiny feet, from when I took such lessons. Old leotards, worn tights, and an ice skating costume I inherited from a cousin and wore in a performance of Really Rosie when I was seven.
  • A red binder full of old MUSH code, including the first dragon I ever Impressed in an online game, and the first song Fuzzy ever typed to me, as well as printouts of email from before we were married.
  • Fishing poles and beach hats, from summers spent at the Jersey shore with my grandparents. Old reels, and a favorite beach towel, faded beyond recognition but still scented with sand, surf and Sea & Ski.
  • Suzuki books and crumbled rosin cakes, and the programs from various honor orchestras I was in throughout the years. A t-shirt from the National Cello Institute, ca. 1986.
  • Powder puffs with traces of scented bath powder still clinging to the fibers, and empty lip gloss tins like the ones currently being sold by TINte. (I liked Root Beer best.)
  • Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books, which were always fun to read. The copies from the school library pre-dated the whole “update for a modern audience” trend, but somehow they never seemed horribly dated.
  • Leather pony-tail wraps, and beaded pony-tail holders, from when I wore my hair in tails or braids every day, some with smiley faces instead of beads.
  • Records and tapes ranging from vintage Shaun Cassidy (yes, really, Shaun – and my mother never knew I had that one), to the movie soundtrack of Grease on vinyl (I’ve got it on disc now), to Billy Joel, Erasure, and Voice of the Beehive, this last which was the official soundtrack of the Thursday Nights at Mel’s Diner Ms. Pac-Man Tournaments in 1988 & 89.
  • Vials of sand from Sandy Hook, NJ, Martin’s Beach, CA, and the black sand beach in Baja Sur where we had a very windblown picnic with my parents several Christmases ago, plane tickets from a 2002 trip to France (we both got the flu, but we didn’t care because we were puking in French toilets), and old maps of SFO’s MUNI and the NY subway system.

Written for Café Writing’s November/December Project: Option 6, Seven Things, and also for Thursday Thirteen. Yes, I know, 13 is more than 7. This isn’t a math quiz.

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Box of Me by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.