I didn’t know about this box. Sunday, while visiting my grandparent’s house for supper, I had the chance to hear the story behind the box and years of labor. A simple question from a child, my father, wondering about the origins of a family artifact – the pocket-watch that I’ve always passed over in our living room and never questioned – spurred the creation of this box and many others like it. One day, I will inherit both the pocket-watch and the box.
Off of the hallway upstairs is a linen closet, the kind for objects that don’t have a place. Inside is a cardboard box, the kind that you would store office supplies in or use to move into a new house. The box and its lid are white, green and well-preserved. My grandfather has it stored on the ground so it must be too heavy for the shelving unit. I don’t know what he will pull out of the box but I know that he has devoted years of retired life to collecting the contents of this box.
Always full of unusual stories, my grandfather has more character than most. I respect him because of his days in the RCMP and working with the horses for the musical ride, grooming them, taking care of them and being punished for not passing the stall cleaning inspection. He came out of retirement at the request of the crime lab so I think that his time there has made him feel the need to collect evidence to support his case and his stories after years of fabricating narratives and supporting them with evidence for court. He thrives on the stories of the people around him and has created his own publishing company to tell the (fictional) stories of his grandchildren – although I don’t think that he has ever admitted that he created “Mindy” in my likeness even though he has alluded to it. From stories of his pet raccoon to the times he takes out his fiddle to play a quick tune, I never stop being fascinated with him.
Sometimes, I wonder how he decides what to store and when is the right time to give something up. Recently, he and my grandmother decided it was time to sell our hand- built cottage against the wishes of my family. Will I be able to create a bond stronger to these boxes than the one to our cottage like my grandfather did? I’m puzzled at how he can hold onto other’s memories more than his own.
The miss-matched collections of history are stored in these boxes. Hundreds of years of photographs and documents are filed into neat folders and labeled with numbers corresponding to where each person fits into the family tree. Two photos are passed around from the box then suddenly it is replaced back in the closet. A slip in history brought to the present.
It’s been a week now and I still can’t understand why I will be inheriting these boxes instead of the cottage. Only now, in reflection, do I realize that this disjunction between the preservation of the photos and of the cottage is what caused me to feel so unusual. I’m helpless, it has been decided that the boxes are my heirlooms so, hopefully, one day I will understand.