My sister has a weird sense of humor and an even odder sense of timing. Because her Christmas present for my kisa didn’t arrive in time she had to mail it to us later. No big deal. These things happen all the time. Sometimes on purpose, I might add.
In this box of Christmas for kisa was an unassuming shoebox for me. I immediately recognized the box as an old keepsake I had cherished a very long time ago. The Washington D.C. address label was fading; its barely contained corners were frayed and coming apart; the tape keeping the lid in place had yellowed and brittled to the point of uselessness. I knew this box all too well. In 1988 a dress of burgundy had arrived. Three sizes too big. I kept the box instead. 24 years later and I couldn’t tell you what it contained but I knew the box. I knew the era even better. How my sister got it I’ll never know.
Kisa was wary. He eyed the box suspiciously like it could strike at any moment. “You sure you want to open that before dinner?” he asked with real worry in his voice. He knew 1988. He knew 1989 better. I wasn’t sure before or after dinner really mattered. I knew I would open the box. I couldn’t help myself. Off came the lid. Out came the ghosts of decades past. Love letters with brogue. The flattened box to my favorite perfume, it’s scent long gone dead. Pictures with much younger faces. Stickers without stick. Medical receipts to mark me forever as a murderer. Transcripts, a paper trail of running away. I kept digging through the disastrous debris. I was hoping for letters from my father. Surely if I kept this sh!t there would be words from him? Something. Anything. Nothing. A drawing of a frog announcing “Fleegle loves you!” A love letter from “Ace” (circa 1982…now how did that get in there?). A menu from a Thanksgiving dinner. The treasures and terrors of yesterday came whispering out all the same. I cannot lie. Kisa looked worried. I had uncovered the past I had been trying to bury (again). Just how many times was this horror going to surface? Was there a point to all this rehashing? I didn’t know.
But, here’s the thing. The box set me free. I was able to dump almost the entire thing into the trash. Out went all the letters without a single thought. I didn’t even pull them from their blue airmail envelopes. Out went the photos of childish grins and silly antics. Piles of papers and memories in the garbage. Almost everything. Almost. What did I keep? Ace’s love letter (at 13 he was cute). The menu from Thanksgiving. A strange birthday card from someone I adore. And the picture of Fleegle. Because Fleegle loves me.