The contents of last year's Advent Calendar mystery box were revealed. But what's in this year's box?

What's in the Box?

mystery box ©ejm2003There is a large closed wooden box chest in our unfinished basement. The box was here when we moved into the house 16 years ago and has not been moved since our arrival. I do not know if it is locked or unlocked. The only thing I do know is that at least one of our friends would like us to open that box to see what is in there. But we're reluctant to open it - after all, we don't know where it's been or who has had access to it! T (having seen WAY too many horror movies in his life) says he doesn't want to open it because what if there is a severed head there? (Yes, please feel free to roll your eyes - I do.) Just the suggestion that there might be some sort of carcasses - mice more likely - is enough to stop me. The box is too large to get up the stairs into a well lit room and we're too cheap to set up floodlights in the basement. The top of the box now serves as a storage area for some of our boxes to keep them off the sometimes damp floor. (yes, we know what is in those boxes).

This is our reasoning for leaving the box closed:

a.) we would have to move the boxes that are stored on top

It might contain

b.) something moldy
c.) something gruesome
d.) something once incredibly valuable but ruined beyond repair

or worst of all:

e.) nothing

My family already has a reputation for leaving mystery boxes closed. My dad has a key-locked wooden box that is stored with his woodworking tools. It has been there on the shelf beside the nails, chisel, file, plane and drill for as long as I remember. When I was a kid, I used to be sent down to the basement fetch a hammer or a screwdriver or to empty the dryer or to get the Christmas ornament box or.... (you get the picture) Invariably, I would find myself standing and staring at the sturdy wooden box - about 12"x6"x6" - with the hinged lid and old lock holding the box firmly shut. Sometimes I would pick it up to look at it more closely, examining all parts of it - smelling it; holding it up to the light to see if there were any way of seeing even the smallest part of the contents; listening to see if anything rattled around inside. My perusal would be rudely interrupted by calls from above asking what was taking me so long and me calling back "Nothing!!". I would hastily (but carefully) return the box to its place on the shelf and race to finish the assigned chore.

Every so often one or all of us would beg Dad to open the box. But the request was always met with a polite no. He once rashly promised that when we were all together in the same house, he would ceremonially open the box. But the last time we were all there for Christmas, opening the box was forgotten (or was it??)

He says he doesn't remember when he last opened the box. But to give you an idea of how long it has been closed, he made the box in woodworking class when he was in grade school. Apparently it was used to store his treasured things. (I think.) He claims that the key is lost. (I think.) Every once in a while, he'll say something tantalizing like "I had a real Mickey Mouse watch...." or "I wonder what I ever did with that Flash Gordon ring...."

We all cry out "The box!! It's in the box!! Open the box!!" and he looks surprised and says "Yeah! I should open the box... nah, there's nothing there. Or worse, there might be the remnants of an old cheese sandwich. Besides, I don't know where the key is." And he wiggles out of it once more....

So.   What's in the box?   Your guess is as good as mine.

July 2004: There was a huge rain storm and my parents' basement was flooded with foot deep storm water. I talked to Dad the day after the flood and after the first flurry of finding out that they were okay and there wasn't any really horrible damage, I started to sashay around to find out about the box. I first asked about the cedar chest that is in the same work area. And Dad interrupted me to say, "And you know what?? I woke up in the middle of the night suddenly and exclaimed, 'The Box!! It was entirely under water!!'"

Hahah! No sashaying necessary. I asked if he'd opened the box to make sure that everything was okay. His reply? "Oh no. Whatever is in there will be all soggy...."

So again.   What's in the box?   Who knows?

Newsflash! later in July 2004: We're all really excited! Dad just sent us all an e-mail with the subject heading "The Box". Read more....

April 2011 Dad died peacefully in his sleep just before Easter. The memorial service was really beautiful - I was amazed (but not really) at the number of people who attended. There were more than 200 jammed into the church as well as countless letters from friends and relatives who live too far away to be there in person. After the service, we went into the columbarium to place the beautiful wooden box with my dad's ashes in it on a shelf next to his father and his brother. And we all suddenly wondered if we should have put Dad into his box.

Not long afterwards, I found Dad's box on a shelf in the basement of my parents' house. We all sat around the table, first admiring the box that he made when he was a boy, and then one of us carefully opened it and we all looked fondly through all the things inside. Dad (1925-2011)

© ejm 2003, 2004, 2011

To Advent 2003 - Dec 13

To The Tree; The Outdoor Christmas Lights; Dad (1925-2011)
To other Scribbles
To Homepage