It was a box in the snow. It lay open beneath a tree, its flaps draped at its side, wrinkled and sagging with ice. Eagerly awaiting for somebody to put something inside.
For this is what box did. The last time it had been useful, it lay on the floor beneath a Christmas tree. Prim flashes from old lights that you can’t buy anymore brushed its brown papered flaps, glances of yellow and green and now red dancing across its surface. An old woman with a smile that brought her eyes to life in a certain way but once a year hobbled towards box with a cane. Her smile – it was the same one she wore on her wedding day and then again when she caressed the cheek of her daughter, just three days old and wrapped in a woolen blanket. And again when she caressed the cheek of her daughter’s daughter, just three days old and swaddled in that same woolen blanket. It was that smile that now looked down upon box, like so many rays of an old sun.
The old woman had once been wrapped in that blanket. And in it, she had traveled from one hand to the next along a sloping deck. Hands whose final act would be to hold her briefly and tuck the blanket around her ears to fend off the bitter Atlantic cold that hung in the air like frost. Then on to the next. At last, the blanket, its infant charge ensconced in its woolen folds, found its way to the last hands on a lifeboat – a woman not her mother who ran cold fingers across her forehead and said, “Shhh. It’ll be alright now.”
All the hands before were then left behind until the lights went out and the water groaned with the agonized wail of steel bending down and down until it sank beneath the waters and left the baby, its blanket, and a woman not its mother in utter darkness and silence.
The old woman knelt down slowly, cringing for a moment as her bones protested in pain.
“I just wish I could give it to her myself.”
The old man remained standing. “It’s better this way.”
Box stood quietly, almost full now with tins and packages in yarn and paper and plastic. Legos and puzzles and Etch-a-Sketches filling its insides. On top of it all, the old woman lay the blanket down. Her eyes misted against pride, but it was only a box that could see her after all, so she didn’t fight back too hard.
As if box could actually hear her, she said, “This blanket kept me warm when I was just three days old. You have to make sure it gets to my granddaughter now. For when her baby is three days old.”
She closed the flaps and taped them carefully with three thick wide strips.
The doorbell rang and the old man helped the old woman to her feet. They both put on blue paper masks and carried the box to the door. The young man waiting at the door might have smiled, but she couldn’t see his face. He took the box and turned away.
“Take good care of that,” the old woman said. But the man was already in his truck and driving away.
Through wet days and dark cold nights, box sat amongst its peers, all stern and stiff as they rumbled against each other inside the creaking innards of trucks and planes. Proud boxes with Important Documents heaved into the side of box, bending in its cardboard surface. A prim box full of silver utensils and fine china packed in pink bubbles sat on top of box, pushing its cardboard flaps precariously close to the blanket.
It was in the air when a hard bounce jostled them all and box tumbled from its perch to land on the floor and rattle around, other boxes randomly leaping from above to try and crush its every side.
Box arrived on the porch with bends and tears and crumpled corners. Still, lying just inside, the blanket remained untouched, unscathed, undisturbed, enshrined in air.
A young woman cut through the tape roughly with dull scissors, then ripped the tape away, bringing curls of brown paper with it.
The woman pulled out the blanket, stopped moving and stared. “Oh my goodness, she sent it,” she whispered. She draped the blanket over her shoulder, caressing it with her fingertips.
“You have to hear the story.”
“What about all these boxes?” a man asked.
“Just put them on the porch. We’ll tend to them later.”
Box sat empty on the porch through the cold night, along with the others. Some had proud markings from Amazon, Bed Bath and Beyond and even Kohl’s. Box had bare brown sides and flaps with tape-torn curls of cardboard. Because box was the first and most-eagerly opened.
By morning, the wind had kicked them all off the porch and scattered them to parts unknown. They tumbled down streets, across fields, and through fresh snow, white crystalline streams flung from their corners as they rolled along.
When the wind stopped, box had rolled along a river, water creeping into its innards to corrupt once-stiff cardboard into drooping wet paper that would never again be able to withstand the harsh duty of carrying blankets across thousands of miles.
Still, box sat patiently beneath a tree, its frozen flaps open, waiting for somebody to put something inside.
It was a box in the snow.
©2021 Michael J Lawrence