Opening Boxes


There is danger in opening boxes, in seeing and touching what you have kept, in wondering why you kept this and not that, in wishing for something that will never, can never, be there in the faded red of worn cotton, in the handwriting, the cursive letter L, in the gold needle and a skein of yarn, in the exact page of the bookmark.  In decisions made, indecision.  In possibilities abandoned.

What do you wish for when you open the box?


18 thoughts on “Opening Boxes

    1. Teri Post author

      That would scare the bespirits out of me. Fear of enclosed places, fear of suffocation, fear of being carried somewhere I don’t want to go!

      1. Josephine

        my daughter FREAKS out in elevators. whenever we go into a lobby, she starts whimpering, “how many floors up do we have to go? can’t we just take the stairs? are you sure it’s only the 2nd floor? what if the elevator sticks?”

        she’d never, ever make it in NYC.

      2. Deb

        I know how she feels. I used to be the same way. I can hide it quite well, but last winter we took the kids to Howe Caverns in NY. It involved an over crowded elevator ride a few hundred feet straight down into the rock. I could have used a bottle of xanax by the time we reached the surface again. I figure if there’s ever a disaster where the human race is forced underground, I’d rather die in the open air.

  1. macdougalstreetbaby

    In the second part of this series, she writes,”When we talk about mortality we are talking about our children.”

    No. No! Noooooo. No.

    I will never understand the death of a child. When we are talking about mortality we should be talking about our parents. When we talk about mortality we should never ever have to talk about our children. To live in this world without one’s children is unimaginable. I can’t even go there.

    When I open the box I am looking for answers.

    1. Teri Post author

      I’ve typed about 15 replies and not a single one means what I want to say.

      When I open the box, there are no answers, only more questions. Unanswerable questions.

  2. Josephine

    people who survive their children, and who can still assemble reasonable thoughts, are fucking powerhouses of strength.

    my aunt commissioned a writer years ago to write my grandmother’s biography. they met for months, talking, visiting places where grandma had grown up, where she had raised her children. the book was divided into six or seven chapters…her childhood, her life as a young bride, raising six kids, her life now. the chapters were titled in reference to the decades they covered, except for one. one chapter was one day. it was the day my dad, her son, died. i still find that forever fitting. how you can live to be a 100 and still, you can have one day that is an entire chapter of your life.

    and talking about fucking powerhouses…joan didion. good god.

  3. Lyra

    That stuck me as so raw and so sad. I wonder is the trade-off worth it, to be a brilliant writer if in order to do so you lack the ability to ever enjoy the moment when it is happening and then end up alone in a house of memories. God, that breaks my heart. I want to hug her, knowing she doesn’t seem a woman who would like to be hugged.
    My box…what I’d like? I’d want it to be filled with voices, very specific voices of my dearest of friends, telling me the things that I forget or have trouble believing. You’d be there telling me “You can tell a story”. It’d be filled with others, near and dear, to drown out all of the other voices that are so much stronger in my head. All I’d have to do would be to open it, and the right person’s voice would be clear and strong and remind me who I am and what I am capable of doing.
    I’d hope it wouldn’t be filled with stuff.

    1. Teri Post author

      You certainly don’t need to be a writer to miss enjoying the moment. I think about this when I’m on vacation and see people stepping back and taking constant photos, posed and otherwise, instead of just LOOKING AND FEELING. (apologies to the real photographers out there) Like leaning over a boat and watching the dolphins leap and fly by vs. trying to get the best photo.

      As I type this, I’m reminded of teenagers talking about how much more important it is to get an iPhone photo of themselves at a party, vs. them having fun at the party. They goal is not to enjoy the night. The goal is to post that photo so people know they were there. How fucking sad is that??

  4. Catherine

    I also found this raw and sad and profoundly universal. Thank you. My boxes. They are too tormented to open now. Perhaps with the childhoods of my kids I was far too distracted to appreciate and I feel this point sharply, but there are other things I never want to visit again. Great post.

    1. Teri Post author

      When my mother died, I packed up 2 boxes, sealed them shut and hauled them home on a plane. I didn’t open them for 2 years, and I was shocked to see what I’d brought home with me. Why this and not that?? Etc….

      Not to mention it is unnerving in so many ways to go through someone else’s things when they’re gone.

  5. LauraMaylene

    I read Blue Nights and was moved by it, but this video was in some ways even more powerful. “…In fact, they make clear how inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was here.”

    Within weeks of my mother’s death, her house was sold (she had actually signed the papers in a hospital bed not long before her death, when she didn’t know she wouldn’t be alive to see the house officially change hands) and my brothers and I were tasked with clearing out 14 years worth of stuff from our lives, plus all her possessions from her past history. I came across old photographs, her dresses from the 1970s, old yearbooks, old college papers, and on and on. I too wanted these things to solve a puzzle that had no answer — if I could just get to know my mother as she was when she was young, before me, before the cancer, then maybe I could truly know her. Of course, what I really wanted was to have her back. But I could not. No collection of boxes or dusty photographs could ever do that.

    1. Teri Post author

      How devastating. And you are right. We’re looking to get to know them, to know who they were outside of being our mother, but it’s an impossibility to put that story together. So often I think of a question I’d love to have answered, and there’s no one to answer it. Never will be.

    2. Deb

      My mother had a hard life and left hardly anything behind. Last spring I opened a box of molding photos I had taken when cleaning out my father’s house and found pictures of her as a young girl and a teenager, smiling and full of hope. There was an autograph book with short messages from friends. I spent hours contemplating that person. I suppose the new book is an ode of sorts to her, hidden in fiction. Maybe it’s why it’s so easy to write.

  6. erikamarks

    Teri, I know we’ve talked before about what we keep and what we throw away but I am endlessly fascinated–and torn–by the subject. Boxes are such compelling things. Like everyone has discussed, they hide, they archive, they protect, they endure. Sometimes it is enough to keep that box, to move it around and around from place to place, but never to open it. I have a few boxes like that and I’m still not sure what I will do with them. All day I have been a sobbing wreck unable to get thoughts of sadness for that family in NYC out of my mind, the depth of their agony and loss. The video touched me so. Thank you.

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