I had most of the toys my friends had. I had the Cabbage Patch Kid, the Light Bright, the Tinkertoys and Legos. And I had Barbies. Tons and tons of Barbies. And a suitcase full of Barbie clothes and accessories. And the Barbie Corvette, the Barbie Palamino, and even the three-story Barbie house with the working elevator!
And I don’t remember playing with any of it. I remember having it, but I have no memories of actually playing with any of it.
The thing I do remember playing with? The refrigerator box. Sometime between 4th and 7th grade, my parents bought a new fridge. I don’t remember the fridge or why we needed a new one. However, I remember the box. Fondly.
It was on its side in the living room. Just an ordinary, brown cardboard box. This box gave us hours and hours of fun.
I remember taking markers into it to decorate it. I remember putting pillows and blankets over the top to make it darker while I was inside. I remember putting pillows and blankets inside of it and taking my best friend into it and hanging out in there.
No, this was no ordinary box. It was a magical place. It was a place where I could giggle and laugh, where I could plot and scheme, and a place where I could just be still. It was a world all on its own- nothing else seemed to exist when I was inside of it. I could use my imagination, put my form of art up without ridicule (if you’ve ever seen me draw, you’d understand), and a place where I could feel safe. No harm could reach me when I was inside of my box. I was warm and sheltered and comfortable.
Looking back, I don’t know how my saintly mother tolerated it for as long as she did. My sense of time has always been skewed, so I’m not sure how long that box occupied the living room. It could have been weeks or months. All I know is that it was there until it could no longer stand on its own. My mother patiently put up with it for the duration. Had it been me, I would have wanted to reclaim that valuable space and put it out with the trash well before she did.
Maybe she understood the value of it. Maybe she knew how much I loved that box. Maybe she witnessed my imagination at work and wanted to support that.
Or, maybe it kept me out of her hair for a few hours every day and she liked having that time.
Whatever the reason, as I look back at that refrigerator box, it was an important and wonderful part of my childhood.
It seems so silly, but parents – when your children are less excited about the gift and more excited about the box in which it was packed, just go with it. You never know what that silly box may mean to your little one. They might not even know, but may thank you for it when they’re older.
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