Monday, November 26, 2007

All Boxed In

She walked toward the door facing her at the end of the long hall. The house was quiet except for the squeak of her left tennis shoe on the dark hardwood floor She paused at the arrangement of family photographs hanging on a wall that was precisely the same color as the organic butter she bought every week. She adjusted two of the frames and, satisfied that they were once again positioned the way she wanted them, continued down the hall, humming her favorite song.

Standing in front of the door, she reached out with her right hand, turned the knob and pulled it open. She flipped the switch on the wall just to the left of the door and a pale, golden light illuminated the closet . There, on five shallow, evenly-spaced shelves climbing the back wall, sat the boxes filled with her things, all of the stuff she needed to keep her life in order. She smiled as she took it all in. She loved that shelf paper; had chosen it because it was covered with tiny little flowers that matched exactly the wall color in the hall and coordinated nicely with the soft, muted red fabric covering the boxes. (Even people who had known her for a long time were surprised that red was one of her favorite colors.)

The arrangement of boxes reminded her of a regiment of soldiers, immaculate in in dress uniform, standing at attention before its commanding officer. There were two boxes per shelf, each placed exactly the same distance from the front edge. Their sides were parallel, the amount of space between a box and its neighbor the same as that between the box and the side wall of the closet. Centered on the front of each box was a creamy white label printed with bold, block letters proclaiming it’s contents and warning anything different to keep out.

Boxes marked “BLUE,” “RED,” “YELLOW,“ “GREEN,” “BLACK,” and “WHITE” were placed on the shelves at her eye-, shoulder- and waist-level. It was here, within easy reach, that she stored familiar items that could be relied on to function the same way every time she needed them. These were the things she used to keep her life running smoothly; to make sure there was a place for everything and that everything stayed in its place.

Two “BROWN” boxes occupied the bottom shelf. These boxes were, in fact, filled with things from her husband‘s past. Early in their marriage, he had shown it all to her. The things that she could use, she had put in the easiest to reach boxes and everything else had been packed away on this less visible shelf. Occasionally, he would want to take the things back out and tell her more about them, and she listen patiently because she loved him very much. But she didn’t like the way it made her feel and was glad that he didn’t want to do it often. (It made him as uncomfortable as it made her. )

On the upper shelf, accessible to her only if she stood on the wooden stool that her husband had built for her, were boxes that were rarely opened. The one marked “WILD COLORS” held gifts that had been given to her over the years, gifts that made her feel unsettled and Insecure. She didn’t know what to do with them or how to use them. She felt, though, that they were important to her and that she shouldn’t throw them away. Sitting beside this box , was one marked “PLAID.” In it were the things from her past that didn’t belong in the life she had now. They, too, were important because they had contributed to the person she had become. The things in these two boxes were messy and hard to control so she kept them where she wouldn’t be tempted to take them down and expose herself to all of that chaos.

Lately, her things had become unhappy being confined to the boxes in which she had placed them. They wanted her to know that there was more to them than red or blue. They wanted to show her that even plain old black and white had wild color talents and that they could do wonderful things if she allowed them to work and play with each other. But, each time they tried to show her something special they had created, she would lift the corners of her mouth in what might have been a smile, murmur “That’s nice” without meaning it and put them right back where she thought they should be. There was no light in her eyes, no joy or celebration, no appreciation of what they could do.

Now, unaware of the hurt and disappointment that lingered there, she reached into her neatly organized closet, took the “BLUE” box from its shelf, removed the cover and checked the contents. When she was sure that everything there was trying to do no more than be blue, she replaced the lid, turned on her squeaky shoe and started back down the hall to get on with her day; a day which would, for the most part, go exactly as she had planned it. Her things would make sure of it. Just as they always did.

I’ve stayed in this box since she put me here all those years ago. Small attempts to step out of it have been met with indifference and coolness.Since I stayed willingly, I guess it’s unfair of me to be angry with her for not wanting to see all the colors of my soul. But I am.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


On this warm Thanksgiving morning, I am sitting here attempting to string together pretty words and phrases into sentences and paragraphs that will tell the world how truly grateful I am for all that I have been blessed with. It’s that time of day that I like most - the sun is just barely up and it’s almost quiet in here ( HoneyPie is up earlier than usual and has turned on music.) My little family, including the pets that we love so much, is with me. My heart is full of love and gratitude.

As I think about my life and what is important to me, I find that the things I am most thankful for are not really things at all. Oh, I could list forever objects that I am happy to have in my life. I mean, indoor plumbing is wonderful . And sliced bread. And coffee makers. And my Goodness, computers!!! All good things that I am oh, so glad are a part of my world. But it's not stuff that makes me feel blessed way beyond what I deserve. What makes my life as rich and wonderful as it is, is living daily with my God, my home and my family.

As a child, I was taught religion and doctrine, but not much about the character of God. As the years went by, I thought about Him from time to time, but never really made Him a daily part of my life. In the last year or two, though, I started feeling like my life was a little off-kilter somehow. It was a good life, it was just missing something, a connection to something greater than me. I began to actively seek God and there He was with open arms. It was like coming home! I could almost hear Him saying, “What took you so long to get here? I’ve been waiting.” Now I am glad to have Him with me everyday. I try be the person He wants me to be but I mess it up really bad sometimes. Even then, I know He still loves me and just wants me to do my best. At last, I understand what people mean when they say they love God. I find myself ending my prayers sometimes with “I love you, God. Amen.” Kind of like I’m telling a family member, “Goodbye, I love you.”

When I tell you I am thankful for my home, your first thought is probably that “She said things weren’t important. But she’s thankful for her house. That’s a thing.” Well, I am thankful for my little house; it keeps out the rain and cold. But that’s not what I mean by home. It’s not a building at all. It’s a feeling of love and acceptance and “a safe place to land” as one of my friends puts it. It’s a circle of three, holding each other up when we’re tired and discouraged and holding each other’s hands to dance in happiness.

And then there’s my family. More than a litte eccentric, they are like characters in a TV sit-com. The three sisters, a bohemian, a spit-fire and an enigma, gave birth to five beautiful children: a drama queen, a scholar, a teddy bear disguised as a tough guy, a cloud collector and a little one whose still trying to find his place in the group. They all speak fluent sarcasm and use it to tame know-it-alls as well as to say “I love you” without being seen as too much of a softy. If one of us hurts, we all hurt. If one of us does well, we all celebrate. Children are shared. We can be ready to strangle, bite and kick one minute and huggin’ and kissin’ the next. If my "circle of three" is home, then this quirky group is where I go on vacation!

I once heard a motivational speaker, when giving advice for life, say “Try to have one exquisite moment every day.” In a little while, we will travel the short distance to Mama’s house where we will have the traditional Thanksgiving meal. There, gathered in one room, will be all of the most important people in my life. My step-father, who is given to making grand proclamations before a meal, will do so and then he will lift his arms towards Heaven and thank God for all that we are blessed with. If, as he sometimes does, he asks each of us to share our thoughts on this occasion, this is what I will say to my family. I will tell them that they are the ones responsible for most of the exquisite moments in my life; that I love them so much that it sometimes feels like my heart will swell right out of my chest. And in the middle of that exqusite moment, I will tell them that, as we pray, I will be thanking my wonderful God for each of them. Just like I do everyday.

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BeeMusing by Beverly Lane is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.