Everyone’s got one and if you haven’t, now is a good a time as any. It’s a box, that is bigger on the inside but not in a science-fiction (Doctor Who!), kind of way, as it holds random objects that string together to tell your entire life story. They may be things that do not make sense to anybody else, like an inconsequential pencil, or they may be pretty self-explanatory, like a photograph, but every single item is a part of what makes you the person you are.
For a long time I’ve had a few objects lying around, waiting to be boxed, like sentimental treasure in a chest and today, whilst shopping in the jovial mood of the holiday season, I found what I was looking for. Ready-made and with no need to cut, paste or paint, it is the perfect vessel for my relatively short history and as I grow older and things start to speed up, I would like to be able to take a moment to sit down and escape into years past, compressed into long minutes.
To date, and in no particular order, my box includes:
- A Barbie photo album that was given to me by a classmate when I was seven years old, as a going away gift after a year-long experience, living in Algeria. I can’t remember the girl but I have a whole class photograph in the first pocket and I know that she is in it. Forty children with the their arms neatly crossed, wearing school aprons, accompanied by a strict looking teacher who would shout at them daily, striking with her menacing cane.
- A battered copy of “Adventures of the Wishing-Chair By Enid Blyton“. It was probably bought at a car-boot sale, it smells old and the pages are browning but that is only a sign that it has been used and loved.
- An old retainer that is surprisingly odour-free in a small, neon orange box and a mold of my top jaw. Until last year, ever since the loss of my beautiful milk teeth, I had been cursed with the most crooked and crowded set of teeth unimaginable. Fortunately, thanks to years of NHS dental care, I can now smile with confidence although I still have to sleep with a set of see-through retainers.
- A leopard print mask that my mum made me for our school sleepover by sticking a piece of felt on a plain mask. It looks a bit like a sleeping mask but all the girls loved it and thought that my mum was a crafty genius.
- A folder full of certificates: academic awards, leadership course, BBC school report, contributions and three medals for collecting house-points. The one I most proud of and which I received three days ago is a Thank You certificate from Save the Children for fundraising. It was a class project; there are only seventeen of us and yet we managed to raise over £10,000, through a lot of hard work and pestering.
- My very first passport. I must be a new-born in the picture as I was about two weeks old when I first travelled in an aeroplane.
- A poem, entitled: Rhyming isn’t so bad. I don’t recall ever writing it and the handwriting is a bit different from my own, but it does seem familiar. I can imagine a 9-year old Yasmine proudly reciting it to anyone who would care to hear.
- A small note from a Mexican woman called Diana, who stayed with us a few weeks. My mum met her through the internet and despite my fears that she would be an axe-murderer who would butcher me in my sleep, she was lovely and we had a great time showing her around London.
- Two birthday cards from the same school friend, for the same birthday. One is homemade and the other is shop bought with the image of a monkey. They’re addressed Aphrodite, which is a name she sometimes calls me after a book character.
- A Thank You card signed by every one I met during my work experience at a solicitors’ firm and the I.D card I wore.
- Year 6 school report
- 2005 class photo
- Card paper, with the typed text, “my name is Yasmine- this is a picture of me”. Underneath, in a messy lopsided scrawl, is my younger self’s attempt and an unflattering drawing with no nose, jazz hands and a triangular-shaped body. According to my laid back mother, she was a pushy parent when I was little and I was sent off to nursery already being able to read off flashcards much to the teachers’ dismay.
My blog, as you can see by the links, is like my box. Many items, lead to a blog post and if I look back at it, I start to remember past events. However, in case of the unlikely demise of the internet, it is best to stick to something tangible.
I can see myself, 60 years into the future, revealing the contents of Grandma’s special box to an attentive audience, each item triggering a briefly forgotten memory and leading to a story, starting, “when I was younger…”
Do you have a memory box? No? Make one.