Memories of boxes

Stu celebrated a milestone birthday this week and his memories of some of the special birthdays he had during his childhood prompted a few of my own birthday memories…

My memory isn’t so good that I remember exactly what ages I was on these birthdays but I can distinctly remember that I was young.  I was a child.  I was safely enclosed in a warm loving home with my parents and my 2 sisters.

I remember cold weather in May.

I remember a cold bedroom.

I remember windows that ran wet with constant condensation; thick bubbles that gathered weight then wriggled down the glass to sit on the window sill.

I remember Mum sending me into the bedroom to mop up the lake of water that pooled on the wooden window sill.

I remember my sisters and I laying under warm blankets and discussing how we might ever have the strength to creep out from our cocoons and brave the cold air in the house to get ready for school.

I remember how an urgent screech from our mother made the decision for us and how we’d run from bed to cupboard to gather our school uniforms, then from bedroom to living room to get dressed.

It was supposed to be warmer there.

But I remember a living room which promised warmth but never delivered.  The oil heater seemed to take forever to emit anything that remotely resembled heat and we’d stand in front of it with our arms wrapped around us as if this might keep our trembling nightie-clad bodies warm in the meantime.

I remember 3 birthdays in particular.

One year, I received a music box.  It was small, white or cream in colour and had a gold clasp.  I remember winding the little key at the back of the box to summon the music, then opening the lid to peer inside.  My eyes widen even now as I remember the first time I saw that tiny perfect ballerina as she slowly turned around in her glorious pink tulle.

Another year, I received a beauty case.  I seem to remember that the case was pale pink but it may well have been another colour because all I really remember is the incredibly luxurious pink silk lining on the inside.  There were compartments and pockets everywhere and I remember feeling suddenly grown up and elegant as I considered where I might put the lotions and potions and beauty tools that any decent 10 year old keeps.

Another year, I received a sewing box.  It was yellow, floral and happy.  It was a beautiful and feminine thing.  It went to school with me; it went to sewing lessons with me.  It made me feel capable; it promised great things.  It would also witness my utter lack of sewing prowess.  I quickly learned to use it as a casket, a place to bury things.  In it I would hide pieces of material that I’d cut wrongly, hems that I’d puckered and endless tangles of threads that I’d matted.

I still have the sewing box.

It contains things that have nothing to do with sewing.

Now, it is not lost on me that my 3 most memorable childhood birthdays have involved boxes.  While I don’t believe I have a box fetish, it may be fair to say that if I was to suffer from one at any point in the future, I could blame it on my parents…



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