Putting things in boxes

“Do you have a box, Patrick?” the Headmaster of our village primary school asked my friend at the beginning of assembly.  Even aged 10 or somewhere around there, I was tickled by Sir’s banal question and stifled a giggle. I strangely loved Sir’s inanities at these cosy assemblies.

The memory returned as I was retrieving cardboard boxes from the eaves of the building in preparation for my move: large sturdy boxes capable of transporting books and pictures, imprinted with the names of obscure independent grocers who couldn’t possibly still exist in these recessionary times.


I pulled the brown cardboard nest through the small hatch and into the attic bedroom of my flat, increasingly populated with boxes, plastic bags, miscellaneous tins, probable junk, suitcases, smaller bags and strewn clothing.  And I’ve continued to mull it as I’ve gone about counting down the last things – the last time I’ll do this or go there, and regretting the things I’ve missed, forgotten or never got round to doing.

There’s a broader need for boxes.  When certain real-life chapters end and begin it’s difficult to perceive them in a segregated, neatly ordered way.  It’s more natural to feel it as one linear chain of indigestible noise – which is how we experience it at the time.

“Life is just one damned thing after another.”
Elbert Hubbard US author (1856 – 1915)

It’s hard to compartmentalise, box up experience and place it to one side; to neatly shelve times, places and people before taking a deep breath and another step forward, having another go.  Although this is what we tell ourselves we must do, particularly if recent experience is unsavoury and not one we’d wish to replay.  Put it behind you, move on.

It’s possible that ability to segregate comes with greater age and even more retrospection.  (I could read this in thirty years and think: oh yes, my blogging period, what a prick).

But amidst change, relatively young adulthood and eighteen-month hops of experience, memory doesn’t tend to have fixed borders.  It segues to and fro, slopping dangerously over the sides, ignoring our laughably empty pleas: we’ve changed, we’re different now, we have moved on, that’s all in the past.

We try because it’s human instinct: self-preservation through self-image, to feel as if we’re developing, evolving, learning and growing through the experience of change.  Not simply making one clumsy guess after another.

This wasn’t really what our Headmaster was driving at though, even in a primary school simplified manner.  He just wanted to talk about boxes.

“Um, probably Sir,” Patrick said.


One Response to Putting things in boxes

  1. Blonde says:

    Ooof. Packing. My least favourite task. Apart from unpacking. G’luck.

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