My name is Taylor Smith. I’m 25 years old and I have
a lot of boxes.
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.