Monday, May 6, 2013

Brown Cardboard Happiness

I installed our new dishwasher on Saturday morning. It came in a large brown cardboard box. As any parent will have already guessed, the box ended up in the hands of my youngest son. He and his friend carried it outside, where it became a fort, a space ship, a boat, or some other imaginary means of playtime conveyance.

I did the same as a child. Our family moved a number of times, and cardboard boxes were a common occurrence in our home. My siblings and I would carry blankets and pillows,  home-baked cookies and cold drinks, action figures and comic books out to our cardboard sanctuaries and spend hot summer afternoons in the cool shade they provided. After several days the cardboard walls grew tired of our clumsy attention, and they would begin to sag and threaten to collapse. If there was a hill with any measure of incline nearby, we might take turns rolling down it while inside the dying cardboard box. We would thrash about, thumping around and around and laughing ourselves dizzy until the box tore open and lay flat on the ground like a tired father playing dead on the living room carpet after several minutes of happy wrestling with his kids.

Today the delivery man came with two brown cardboard boxes. They are too small to be forts, too shallow to curl up into with a blanket, and I wouldn't dare roll down the tiniest of hills while trying to fit inside them. Still, they carry just as much potential for joy as those large brown carboard boxes of childhood did.

But I remember that along with the many hours of fun that there were to be had with those large brown cardboard boxes of childhood, there sometimes came pain as well. A bump and a bruise while rolling down a hill, or the cut and sting that came from running a finger too quickly along the edge of the lid; these were part of the deal, but we knew and accepted the risks.

The boxes that came today were full of books. Many copies of a particular book. A book that I wrote, called West Of Independence. To complete the book and to publish it has brought me great joy; I have for some time now wished to become a writer, and to realize that dream brings about a feeling unlike any other.

Along with the happiness of finishing the book came some cuts and bruises. While proud of the book, I am not proud of who I was for most of the story told within it.

But I have heard from a great many readers that are changing who they are because of who I was, and this brings a bittersweet joy to my heart. To make a difference, no matter how small, is the least that I can do, and to receive such messages makes me want to share my former self with anyone who will listen.

After installing the dishwasher, I drove out to Park City and bought a freezer for the garage. I told my wife that we needed more room for ice cream, frozen vegetables, and chicken breasts.

Don't anyone tell her, but the truth is that I just wanted another large brown cardboard box.

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