Tuesday, January 02, 2007

History of a box

I threw out a 50-year-old cardboard box today. It was kind of beat up. It contained Christmas ornaments and it came to me along with a bunch of other things my dad had put in storage after he and my mom got divorced. After some 30 years of storing an evolving Christmas "collection," I decided the box was due for a reorganization.

The string of original lights left had to go, because they were huge energy consumers, and I hadn't used them in years. Over the years, strings of lights had been added and subtracted as old ones wore out, or trees got bigger or smaller. Next to pieces of glass ornaments, unidentifiable crumbly white objects in the bottom of the box represented the year when we made ornaments with cookie cutters from homemade cornstarch-and-flour modeling clay.

More stuff was added than was taken away. An assortment of felt ornaments personalized with school photos of my kids in various stages of development accumulated year after year, from their respective school classrooms. In later years, the box grew decidedly more rotund than it started out, as did I. It was barely recognizable as a rectangular solid. The original staples holding it together had given way to several newer layers of packing tape, which are now in turn disintegrating. Time to go.

This box was made in Antioch, California, about an hour from where I live now. On the bottom of the box is a stamped "Certificate of box maker." The certificate declares that the box conformed to various official specifications and even tells what railroad container it came/went in.

Unfortunately, I can't recycle this box. One side is covered with pale yellow paint, which my dad used to paint a whole series of identical cardboard boxes he labeled and placed on shelves he built in the garage to hold just that size box. The yellow paint was a sort of unifying theme. I remember him painting the boxes, 50 years ago. Paint does not recycle well, so into the landfill it must go.

My mom left the contents of the garage to my dad when she moved out, so he bundled them all into storage while he sorted out his life. When I bought a home in 1977, he gave me the key to the storage space and the loan of a U-haul truck. They were transferred to my garage, but with considerably less order. The one marked "XMAS" is the last of the bunch.


Post a Comment

<< Home