The Christmas Boxes

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Two Rivers

It is amazing how the events in life leave little mementos.

Submitted: December 20, 2017

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Submitted: December 20, 2017



“What’s this?” the barista asked.

It had been six years since it all began: 

I had wandered into The Daily Grind Cafe to grab a quick coffee to go.  I passed three people playing Scrabble at the round table in the middle of the restaurant.  Knowing the National Scrabble Championships were being held in Dayton, Ohio, that year, I asked them on the way out if any of them were going.  We were Elkhart, Indiana, and Dayton was a mere 220 mile from us. 

“Not me!” one of the ladies said.

The man said he was a chess player at heart and the Nationals for chess was being held the same week in Indianapolis.  The very elderly lady said, “Land no, not me!”  They invited me back to join them someday, and so I did. 

The very elderly lady was named Florence.  She was 90 years old at the time.  She still drove, lived in a second-story apartment, and shopped for her own groceries.  A few years after I met her, near Christmas, she came in to play Scrabble carrying a small paper box, measuring about three inches by three inches.  She said, “Today, I’m going to teach you how to make this box,” and she did.  When she finished the lesson she gave me her pattern.  “Here keep this to remind yourself how to make it.”

I took it home, and my wife Sally asked what it was.  I told her Florence had taught us at Scrabble how to make it.  My wife, the creative one, admired it and then tore it apart to see how it was made. 

The next year, my wife and I sat at the kitchen table and made nearly a hundred little boxes.  We decorated our whole Christmas tree with only boxes and lights.  However, our creations were made of red wrapping paper with half inch white poke-a-dots, and were only an inch and a half square.  We slipped a green ribbon on the edge and then closed the box capturing the ribbon on one corner to hang it. 

After Christmas, we took the decorations off the tree and put them in a shoe box and forgot all about them.  This year Sally found them and asked, “What are we going to do with these?”  I didn’t answer her because I didn’t know.

The next week, Florence invited us to her new assisted living facility, where she had moved to after she had fallen and had lain on the cold floor all night.  It was to be a Christmas dinner, so Sally wrapped a gift for Florence in a gift bag, and I threw in two of the Christmas box decorations Florence had taught me how to make.  When she opened the bag she gasped.  “Oh, my word, what is this?”

“Remember you taught me how to make these boxes,” I said.

“Oh mercy, that was so long ago!” she exclaimed.

That gave me an idea to pass on these little boxes on as token gifts to friends and as a tribute to Florence, who is still young at heart, and sharp in wit. 

I have given two boxes to a man and his wife at church.  It is Christmas, and she is pregnant with her second child, a boy this time, and she has cancer of the lymph nodes.  I explained to her how the boxes came about.  I saw her later carrying the boxes around in church.  It seemed to mean a lot to her.  I thought about that and how Florence is confined in the nursing home, and yet her blessings transcend the walls of her habitation.

I also have given three boxes to my son, Nate, one for him and one for each of his daughters.  They have had a troubling a year, but seem to be coming out of it now. 

I plan to give each of the players in our Scrabble Club one box each, explaining how they came about, hoping it will mean something special to them because Florence is still one of us, even though she can't get out anymore. 

So, I answered Sydney, the barista, “Florence, who is 94 years old now used to play Scrabble here with us, and when she was 90 she taught us how to make these paper boxes.  My wife and I took the idea and made Christmas decorations for our tree one year.  Merry Christmas, from Florence, and my wife and me.”  I had slipped a ten dollar bill in the edge of each of the two boxes, one for her and one for partner.  Her eyes lit up when she turned one of them over to see the gift of money. 

As I left the coffee shop, I wondered how many of these boxes will find a home on the Christmas tree, and ultimately become a family tradition, being hung every year on the tree with the story of Florence.  Maybe it is too much to hope for, but it would make a great conclusion to the story of the "Christmas Boxes" if that’s the way it ends up.





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