Memories and Musings: Dusty boxes

Published 10:05 am Saturday, October 5, 2019

It shouldn’t take a raging hurricane to provide us with a dose of humble pie — if we are not humbled by the beauty we see in a single flower, a blazing sunset or an unconditional act of kindness, then it might be time to be checked for a heartbeat.

Neither should it take a darkened room and angry, rustling trees to trick us into reliving a playful moment of our youth — if we have stopped watching cartoons or wearing a Mickey Mouse watch, the gift of being “childlike” will probably leave us to find someone who still thinks it’s fun to jump in puddles and blow soap bubbles when no one is watching, the long-forgotten habits of innocent times when “make believe” was an essential part of every day.

Everyone — yes, that’s an absolute, or close to it — has a closet or a shelf or, maybe, a room that is hiding fortunes in abandoned memories. Some are loaded with old concert tickets or crumpled prom flowers, some with pictures of long-forgotten people, memory-laden places and childhood trinkets that glow in the dark.

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But somewhere in that closet, nook or cranny are dusty boxes that have waited lonely years in a darkened, neglected space for the child in us to dust them off and carry them to the kitchen table. As you timidly remove the dusty lid and touch the wooden trinkets that sailed you ’round the cardboard square, something wonderful happens: years vanish and you are given permission to temporarily abandon adulthood and once more become childlike.

As you roll the dice or spin the dial and trinkets move across the weathered board, you remember all the faces that with you played the game indoors or on the porch on days of sunshine, rain or snow: Anna, who was a poor loser but great friend; Louie, who always had to be the banker in any game with paper money; Dickey, who always strategically rolled the dice off the table when he needed a certain number.

Suddenly, it dawns on us that the tickets to our childhood — the invitations to remaining childlike — have always been within our reach. They have waited patiently, never raucous or demanding, always hopeful for another encounter with the children they once knew. It only takes a conscious effort to occasionally forsake the blaring horns and stoplights of our everyday lives and travel, unapologetically, to the places where the dusty boxes wait.

Gene Gallelli was Associate Superintendent of the Dare County Schools for eight years. He received his Doctor of Education degree from East Carolina University, where he taught and supervised students studying to become school administrators.