Those who know me are aware of my container love. Some are tins. But most are old boxes. Wooden ones especially. But shell encrusted, fabric covered, and painted ones find their way into the collection as well. Perhaps it’s a sense of mystery surrounding any enclosed object that draws me to them. Like stumbling upon a secret room or an overgrown path in the woods. What does it contain? What was it’s purpose? Who used it?
Boxes have histories. They tell stories. Some are muffled, some clear.
A collar box covered in swirly apricot mohair sits on my dresser. Uncle Lou picked it up at an antique store. A natty dresser once kept it on his bureau. He’d open it in the mornings as he prepared for his workday, looking at himself in the mirror as he knotted his tie and fished around for cufflinks and arm garters. He’d give a final glance to make sure his hair was perfectly parted and slicked down before he left.
On the living room mantle a thumb length oxblood colored hinged box sits. It looks a bit like a mouse sized violin case, but it’s velvet lined interior once housed a pipe’s mouth piece. I don’t know who owned it, but it was in my dad’s things after he died. Why did he keep it? I wonder if it belonged to his father. Who could even venture a guess at this point? But it was empty. No mouth piece with bite marks or pristine one without. A mute vacant box.
Several shell encrusted souvenir boxes grace my grandmom’s old vanity. “Nassau” and “Bahamas” are their names. Thrift store purchases. Places I doubt I’ll ever see. Who gathered all the makings from sandy beaches? What agile hands carefully glued each shell in place? Who sold them to tourists as they poured out of busses blinking in bright sunlight? What vendors pressed them upon reluctant buyers in makeshift markets? How did the seller’s meager earnings cover household expenses? Or did it? And when tourist season ended what did the sellers do? Go into their small homes to craft more boxes.
Each piece carries a bit of the persons who touched them. Like the thumb print of God on what He made. Listen, listen hard, to the stories told.