Journal Without Words

I was born on a cold, rainy, and pitiless morning November 16, at 6:35 in the morning. I didn’t want to come out – I was a breech birth and as long as my mother was in labor with me, it was obvious. At last, kicking and screaming and fighting as hard as I could under the circumstances, I at least made my appearance.

Not only a breech, but a blue baby. My mother’s middle sister, who was 10 at the time, recalled my mother as saying “Oh crap” – or something to that effect, the first time she saw me in the incubator. My father was instantly adoring, as fathers are. That spring, he planted a cherry tree for me in our yard. It flourished until I graduated from college. He cut the tree down and made a box from the wood. Lovingly he measured, planed, stained, and used some antique brass hinges he had found somewhere and been keeping on hand. He installed a simple lock and a tiny brass key locked and unlocked the box.

“Sis, this is for you – for your life. Put into things that are precious, reminders of happiness, reminders of sorrow, mementoes of love, symbols of friendship, victory, and defeat. Like life, there are things you will add, things you will remove, and things you will put back into the box. Life is like that. This box is like your heart – only you and God and those special people you allow to do so, can look into it. The key is for you to lock it if you choose. But guard the box well. I have put one thing into it for you. Like Pandora’s box, it holds hope.” And sure enough, in the box was a small smooth stone with “Hope” in gilded letters written on the stone.

In the box are faded obituaries, some photos of human and four legged family, one of my grandma Ninny’s handkerchiefs, my papa’s bronze star, a pair of chopsticks, a small tin of dried sakura, some cat collars, a few letters, smooth stones from my home town, Kyoto (Ryoan-ji), London, Tokyo, Woodstock, the church where my dear friend Father Pete was the parish priest, a small tin box of soil from the peaceful country cemetery where my grandparents, father, and more ancestors lay sleeping, some faded roses, some dried brown gardenias from the bush outside my bedroom in my childhood home, a napkin from my wedding reception, a baseball my mother hit out of the Durham Bulls Ballpark (she won a drawing and was a “guest hitter” who totally amazed everyone with that slammed ball, a picture of her at 16 with her hair in two braids, a skirt and oxfords and a well seasoned baseball glove,, and recently, put back into the box, a cassette tape of my Samurai playing piano to me one night. There are other things in there as well. The box smells of sandalwood, lavender, furniture polish, and time.

Only for a brief period was the box locked. It was always open, ready to receive the keepsakes of events in my life. I was always open to life and all it would bring. I have not always coped well with events and have not always had faith or believed in grace or I was sad and bitter. But I never stopped living. I may have hidden for awhile, but I always came back out. I have long since lost the key. Truth be told, I never looked for it.

Sometimes I open the box and sift through the contents. Other times, I walk past it and lovingly touch it. The stone, with “Hope” is still inside.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Beni
    Aug 11, 2013 @ 21:30:04

    I was born in the jungle on a bamboo floor (or so I was told). No birth certificate. No box. The only memory that I carry along is the white band that I tied to my messenger bag eleven years ago.

    Reply

  2. Beni
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 17:57:59

    In eight grade, I won a soda can that commemorated the Duke Blue Devil’s Final Four achievement (~1992). My teacher advised me to keep it because of its value. I got thirsty and drank it a couple months later

    Reply

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