There is always a Last Day. A Last Day of summer. A Last Day of school.
A Last Day of Childhood.
This year, it happened in our family again. A Last Day of Childhood.
On her Last Day of childhood, we could have done something remarkable.
On her Last Day of Childhood, we should have been packing for college. She was moving out the next day. On her Last Day of Childhood, my heart stretched and ached every time I looked at her. I saw a young woman, on the brink of adulthood and I almost couldn’t stop the tears.
She wasn’t quite ready.
“I can’t go, Mum. Not until I find that box!”
We sat in her room, clutter and cartons spilling everywhere, looking for a smallish wooden box.
“I am not leaving until I find it.”
It had been lost through the years and the debris of childhood, packed in the attic and almost forgotten. But not quite. We dug and searched every crate. Ice skates, crazy art projects from ninth grade, striped socks, notebooks filled with then-important thoughts and grade school dreams.
The box was from her grandfather. He had died when she was just nine. That was when she packed up all her dearest treasures of life, and put them in that box. There they sat, waiting for this day, till she was all grown up, and ready to say goodbye.
She found it.
With glee, she opened the tarnished brass latch of the little wooden box, and all of the joys of her childhood tumbled out around us. She laughed, and I saw her as she was at age seven, freckled faced and toothy. Grinning, hopping around in overalls with bare feet, innocent and happy.
The precious box contained: An agate. An eraser. A tiny bowl she had sculpted from rice (hidden away in a pocket during supper) and shellacked with nail polish. A hair from her dog that she had dipped in Borax to grow crystals on. A wooden nickel. And an acorn cap.
That’s it. Nothing, really. But treasures. Treasures of a childhood filled with love. A relationship with a grandfather who adored her and teased her relentlessly. She had dumped a bucket of water on his head for his Christmas present one year. The following Easter, he had cracked a raw egg on her head. She had decorated it to trick him, but the joke backfired. All of the moments of wonder of nine years of childhood danced out of that box. It was filled with love, really.
She did leave the next day. As she walked away from me, I held back the tears, and thought that nine years wasn’t enough. Eighteen years weren’t enough. But if, someday, I can look back with joy at an acorn cap, and feel my heart overflow with love, maybe, just maybe, I can face today. I could pack it all in the box of my heart, and move on.
To the First Day of Adulthood…