Heart Shaped Box

I know, this isn’t just one word. And I didn’t ask for anyone to give me this word – or, I suppose I should say, phrase. I’ve been stuck in a small rut lately and, while I’m not truly ready to come out of it, I know it’s time to do it anyway. My rut-loving self wants to stay in bed all day and pull the covers over my head and tell the world to leave me alone. But I can’t. I have to get on with my life.

Two weeks ago I went home. My primary reason was to go see Peter Frampton with my BFF, James. He bought tickets a long time ago so I knew I’d be flying back to Ohio  in early August to see my musical Idol (the concert was phenomenal, by the way, Peter never fails his fans). Anyway, the other reason I went back to Ohio was to go through my mom’s belongings that had been stored in my dad’s hangar. He just recently moved from German Village to Bexley and the house that he and my mother shared had been cleared of all the stuff he wouldn’t be taking with him.

Entry into the hangar was overwhelming. There were boxes and boxes of stuff to go through and while I often got discouraged with just how much stuff there was, I kept at it. Fueled by Mtn Dew and a strong will to find my mom’s Limoges collection (which I did eventually find).

There were things I knew I’d come across, like her china and glassware, but then there were small surprises along the way, like her collection of glass frogs that she seemed obsessed with collecting. I’m not talking about a frog as in the animal, but something that is used to to hold flowers in place in a vase. Look it up if you’re curious. Mom had a ton of these. The funny thing is, I don’t know if she ever even used them. Mom was a master gardener and had glorious flowers to display, but I’m not sure she ever cut her flowers in order to use her prized frogs. I wonder why that is?

Why are there things that we collect or hold onto that seem to fit perfectly into our lives yet we let them go unused? Just the thought of this stirs something inside of me that something is terribly wrong in my life. I’ve wasted so much time collecting for an event that is never going to come or is just waiting for me to grab it but I’ve been too afraid.

I’m getting ahead of myself. The true treasure in those boxes weren’t her frogs. She loved them and they made her happy but they were just something to collect to fill the hole she apparently had in her heart. But way in the back of the hanger was a box that was severely damaged. It was a box that had seen better days and I’m assuming had been in the hangar for a very long time. I started to precariously sort through a box that had been long abandoned – visited by mice – inhabited by spiders. Inside that box were treasures that my sister and I had created as children. At first I was a little offended that she had obviously moved this box to the hangar herself since it had been there so long. Why didn’t she want to keep these treasures in her home? Then, I dug deeper. I found pictures. Pictures of her high school friends. Then her yearbook. Unfortunately, that could’t be saved. It had gotten wet along the way and it was beyond repair – just like her graduation cap. Both had been destroyed.

Then the box. A Prince Albert cigar box that was obviously from the late 50’s. I opened it to find mementos. A long faded corsage. A rusted button from a pep rally. A program from a play she had been in. Removing these items one by one slowly revealed handwritten notes on the bottom of the box. Dates she had listed that had been important to her. Meeting a boy. A first date. Things that altered her life. Things that had been important to her. Things that made her happy back when life was a dream to be achieved. Before other things – like being an adult – got in the way.

I broke down. It wasn’t the first time I cried that day, but it was certainly the hardest. Where did her life go? And why was I finding it inside of a crusty, mouse-poop filled box?

I think the thing that hit me the hardest was that I have a box like this, too. And I thought we had nothing in common all these years. My box is filled with things that other people have given me. Notes that meant something to me. A smiley face on a post-it note from a friend on a particularly bad day. An uneaten (and now petrified) Power Bar from a pastor who saved me from passing out at the DMV. Things that make me happy. My box is beside my bed. I get it out every so often when I need a boost. I looked in my box as soon as I got back from Ohio. It didn’t take away the pain of my mother being gone but my box sure does have a whole new meaning now that I know my mother and I shared something so sacred.

We’re both dreamers. We kept our boxes to ourselves. The desires of our hearts. The love we hoped we’d never lose but inevitably did. I’m trying to learn from my heartaches and move on. I’m not sure what she did with her heartaches but I’m pretty sure it went into collecting things that really didn’t mean the world to her.

I want to use my collections. I want to use my gifts. I’m tired of hiding them in a box just waiting for someone to find them after I’m gone.

I’m sure someone might find that as a treasure someday, but why am I waiting until then? I’m opening my heart shaped box for everyone to see.

I have nothing to lose.


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