When no shoe box in the world is big enough to hold your memories

I have two shoe box-sized gift boxes stacked neatly in my office on the ledge that would house pillows if I were the type of person who would buy window nook pillows instead of just talking about buying window nook pillows.

Mostly, they sit there, untouched. And every now and then, something may get tossed into the box.

But sometimes, I get something, something that shakes me a little out of my comfort zone a bit. Something that makes me open the box; look through the box. Something that reminds me that my kids are no longer the same kids they were just yesterday. Reminds me that my kids are past the stage of asking for a “ba-ba” and are now at the age where they both use the word “actually” way more often than necessary and frequently ask me for the time, as though they have pressing appointments they’re at risk of being late to or missing altogether.

Today, that something was a first-grade homework assignment. A summary of a dog named after a major city in a large state who is looking for a home and found one in his namesake city. And even though I saw him write the story, even though I oversaw the doing of the homework like a brooding hen over her chicks, when I picked it up after it was graded (if, in fact, a “good job” sticker is a grade) it was like I was seeing it for the first time.

He is 6 years old, and he writes this summary and he draws an illustration to go along with his work and in his free time, he stencils names, making word clouds (though I just discovered the phrase last year, so I assume he doesn’t know what it’s called, but who knows?) and drawing photos of him with his friends. I can always tell which one is him because he’s brown, and the others aren’t, and he knows that and is Ok with it. I look through these things, and choose them, carefully. I don’t know why I keep what I keep. Maybe it makes me feel like he could be a writer, a lover of words, a CREATIVE. Like me.

And I take these things, not all of them – not the math sheets or the Ninjago coloring pages or even the spelling tests. But some of them. Like the drawing. And the story. And the word cloud. And I dust off my box and put them inside. Because I know one day the box will be something I can hold. Something I can open and remember the little boys who made what’s inside of them. The little boys who will one day be bigger than me and maybe  won’t want me to be held.

But I’ll have my boxes. I’ll have my memories. And when they’re ready, no matter how old they are, I’ll hold them, too.

And I’ll remember.

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