Boxes Bearing Tales

I don’t like to repeat myself (too obviously) but I wanted to talk about inscriptions again. Not inscriptions in books this time, although I did have one this month that made me stare in openmouthed amazement, but those other inscriptions.

What I’d like to bring up again is what you’ve written on those poor old boxes you use for your donations. You probably don’t see the words any more: they’re from three moves or two storage lockers ago. And I am experienced enough to know that when the box lid says “Old China”, I’m really going to find your collection of paperback Agatha Christies inside.

But these things do make me a little nervous sometimes. “Mixed With Bathroom Stuff” is just the sort of thing you might send over. You finally cleaned out all those books you’ve kept in your hygiene hut for moments of meditation. (I know LOTS of people who read in the tub.) And you tossed in all those old tubes of toothpaste and half-empty boxes of Q-Tips while you were at it, and then sent it all to me.

That isn’t what happened: it turned out to be a box of books. But I had a good time imagining what was in the box originally. (What was in there originally? And what made you pack so quickly that you couldn’t pause to unmix whatever was mixed with the bathroom stuff?)

It’s kind of like the inscriptions in the books: you reveal just a little bit of your private life to the next viewer. I am fascinated by whoever it was that dropped off books in a box marked “Clothes Too Small for Sam”. It was not a very big box, so either Sam is extremely tiny—so there aren’t many clothes too small for him—or Sam is a growing boy, girl, or dog who has finally outgrown all those cute little clothes.

I shall pass over the vast number of boxes which have come in lately marked “Sell or Donate” and even “Give To Library if Not Worth Selling”. You could come up with a code phrase to use instead, just to let us believe we were your first choice all along. (Hey! Maybe that’s what “Mixed With Bathroom Stuff” means!)

And we’ll just ignore the boxes marked “Keep”. If you didn’t change your mind, it’s too late now.

But you really stopped me in my tracks with “American Flag and Three Bears”. Now I have to run out and write a children’s book. Once upon a time, there were three bears who went to the parade on the Fourth of July..… Oh, and again, the box was just filled with books.

It isn’t your fault, since this was printed on the side of the box, but whoever donated books in that box you got from the grocery store—the box that originally contained cleansing material—has cost me all kinds of work time. See, it’s a box of a toilet bowl cleaner that you hang on the side of the bowl, so the water flushing dispenses the cleanser. Whoever designed the box put “CLINGING TOILET” on one line and “BOWL CLEANSER” on the next line. Thinking about clinging toilets always makes me pause for a moment, and I just don’t have time for that in June.

(Okay, back to that book inscription that also cost me a moment’s thought. Many years ago, somebody out there got a book inscribed “To X—in thorough appreciation of all those many pleasant moments we shared in days gone by which continue to be recalled and treasured.” I don’t know where to go with this. It could cover anything from studying Sanskrit together to planning jewel heists.)

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