My name is Taylor Smith. I’m 25 years old and I have
a lot of boxes.
Boxes can be nice – they tend to stack well.
They can be made out of plastic,
You might find cereal in a box,
or a diamond ring,
or a stamp collection.
My boxes don’t have those things.
People don’t see my boxes,
because I stuff them under my bed,
stack them in my closet – tucked right behind my prom dress and a silk robe that my mom gave me when I was 12.
Some of the boxes I’ve sent off
because very kind people offered to keep them for me
when they didn’t fit in the storage unit.
I’ve had three storage units
since I was 20.
I’m not even sure how the boxes got to the first storage unit.
I’m pretty sure I wasn’t there –
but maybe I was, and I’ve just chosen not to remember.
That first year I only went to the storage unit twice.
Once to pick up a duffle bag of winter clothes,
the second time two weeks later, when I went to take them back,
before I boarded a plane en route to New Jersey, and eventually Italy,
to get some distance from the pain of “home,”
and the boxes.
The next time I went back,
I noticed the boxes were beginning to
– the cardboard sides sunken in, like the cheeks of someone
who has been in the hospital for a very long time.
I stared at the boxes, and the labels
-which weren’t in my handwriting-
deciding if I should open them.
But the thought of opening them
so I left them alone
and walked away,
silently thanking the hands that
so I wouldn’t have to.
When I moved
about two years ago,
the boxes went from the second storage unit
and straight into my apartment.
It’s a one bedroom apartment
and the boxes took up nearly all of it.
I bet the movers were wondering
what a 23-year-old was doing with that many boxes.
But they didn’t ask.
And I probably wouldn’t have wanted to talk about it,
because it’s not easy to start a conversation about
your boxes that are filled with
some of your things
and your parents things
and their parents things,
because you’re the only one left responsible for those things
— those things that are them,
and are very much not them,
all wrapped and rolled and crushed into
a mountain of cardboard boxes.
Part of me wishes I could snap my fingers and
make the boxes disappear.
A few years ago,
I think I found comfort in knowing that the boxes were there,
that the candlesticks
and wedding dishes
and my mom’s sweaters
were going to retain the scent of those who last touched them,
and retain them, as well.
But then I became afraid that they
wouldn’t smell like mom and dad
– that they would smell like must and mold and
because that’s what things do –
they collect dust and eventually decay.
The first time I opened a box,
it felt like the times in elementary school when I would forget to take my inhaler before recess.
My lungs were on fire.
My skin itched.
My vision blurred with the tears
that just kept crowding my eyelids until
they spilled over and hit the rims of my dad’s sunglasses,
the ones he wore on our trip to Disneyland,
when he carried me on his shoulder
and we ate those red, white and blue firecracker popsicles
that left our lips stained with sugar.
People say that stuff is stuff.
Stuff can never take the place of the person who owned them, or used them.
I say that to myself
But stuff is still hard.
Because stuff is full of triggers,
and the stuff in my boxes
triggers the spring on my very loaded emotional gun,
taking me out of the independent, adult-Taylor life I’ve built for myself
and bringing me back into the days of what was,
the days of parents
and my 9th birthday
and my high school and college graduations,
when my parents weren’t there.
That’s why my boxes aren’t out in the open.
I’m not trying to hide them from others;
I’m hiding them from myself.
There are a lot of wonderful memories in those boxes, too.
There is no denying that.
But the truth is that
even looking at the good times
is still very hard.
I opened a box the other day.
throat got tight
and my hands felt all needle-pricked
and my eyes fogged.
But I took a deep breath,
and stuck my hand inside.
I pulled out photos
and ticket stubs
and newspaper clippings.
I ran my finger along the indentations of your handwriting, Dad, to try to feel you.
It was a note you wrote to the Honors College at IU, two months before you died.
It made me miss you,
but it also reminded me that you loved me
and you still do.
And your stuff
and the notes
and the photos
– they can all be reminders of that –
but they’re not necessary
for me to know your love.
they’re things I’ve carted around for the last seven years,
weight that I’ve really resented, at times.
Ok, most of the time.
And as much as I want to get rid of them all at once,
I know they’re meant for something good.
they hold me accountable to healing,
the kind where I pull out the memories,
one by one,
and sit in the pain and
and find Hope
and realize that even in the hardest times of my life
the HOPE and PEACE,
they were right there.
They were there all along.
My name is Taylor Smith. I’m 25 years old and
I have boxes —
boxes that I’ve suffered with,
but these boxes,
they’re making me stronger,
and turning me into the warrior
that God created me to be.
I dont have enough words so I hope you will understand if I say just…….Wonderfull
Daja, thank you so much! I’m so thankful we’re friends! 🙂
You are such a good writer, but what I really mean to say is you are such a good person! We can’t wait to have you (and your boxes!) here with us in Florida 🙂
Sally, I can’t wait for this next chapter of my life! Thinking about FAMILY puts a perma-grin on my face — and I don’t think it’s going to come off! 🙂 Love you!
Simply, in a word, beautiful.
Thank you, Peter!
Taylor, your words are always so honest and sincere, thank you for never being afraid to share your life in your articles. You make the memories of your Dad and Mom so special and allow us, Uncle Dave and me, to sit back and thank God for the times we shared with them and you. You are one amazing young lady, we love you kiddo. Can’t wait to receive one of your amzaing hugs again.
Aunt Gwen, I feel so thankful to have you and Uncle Dave as family! I loved our conversations when we were together in Arkansas last. Thank you for sharing your stories with me! Know that I hold them close. I love you all!
You are a graceful writer, Taylor. This is a beautiful and heartfelt piece; thank you for sharing your life.
Thank you so much, Leanne! I’m so thankful that you share your heart with us, too. The way you bare your soul is truly beautiful and inspiring! Much love to you!
Taylor, so powerful….. I was in tears. YOu are a brave young girl and I’m blessed to know you.
Thank you so much, Jody. Like you told me, there can be a lot of unpacking in life, but when we trust in the joy yet to come, it all becomes glorious!
Taylor: When I think of good writing, I think of whether the writer succeeded in making me understand “what it’s like to be a (fill in the blank).” I’ve read a friend’s essay about only buying pre-packaged grated cheese because she has no time anymore as a single mother raising two boys. That gave me insight and stirred my empathy. With this essay about you and your boxes, you’ve given me similar insight of what it’s like to survive your parents, to be alone (but not really) as a young adult. With your masterful description of conflicted feelings toward these boxes, these inanimate objects containing so many palpable memories, you’ve invited me and every other reader into your life, into your heart. Thanks for being so self-aware and so willing to share at the same time.
George, know that your words mean a great deal to me. I look up to you as a writer, and all-around awesome human being. Thank you for living your life the way you do, for your willingness to step into the mess and feel with me and countless others.
Taylor- tears, sweet Taylor- oh my goodness. So hauntingly beautiful. Your story is going and will continue to go out into the world to break hearts and heal hearts and bind hearts. Grateful for you in my life. Love you- cornelia
Cornelia, I am so grateful for you! Your encouragement means so much. Thank you for always loving me and believing in me.
Beautiful! Makes me think of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAj1jo_g-rI
Leah, that was AWESOME!