You are officially on the “Nice,” not “Naughty” list when Santa leaves not only gifts, but the boxes they come in.
An empty box is a kid’s best friend. It’s less expensive than any item it holds, yet it’s value is immeasurable. Its emptiness can be filled with toys or live bodies. It can be flipped on its side to become a castle or completely over, providing a flat surface on which imaginary tea parties are held. It’s a dentist’s chair, a horse, a church pew. It’s a workbench, a boat, a shield from air darts.
A box is a treasure chest of memories. Why? Because it’s versatile. It doesn’t break easily. It can be spray painted for a doll-house or draped with a blanket to create a tent. It withstands strikes from a bow-shot arrow and raindrops—for a few minutes anyway.
An empty box is adaptable. It becomes whatever we want it to be. I dare say it’s the most played with toy at Christmas even though it’s not actually on the “Most wanted” list. It’s what I would call a “Misfit toy.”
Wrapping paper rolls fit this category too. Dad says when he was young, he called them “Tootidoos,” because he would place one end to his mouth and blow a “Tootidoo,” through it before charging through the house on his imaginary stallion. My sister and I wielded them as swords, fencing until one would break.
These misfit toys are cheap, but fun—like a country Christmas. However, the joy from both can be as elusive as that broken bit of egg shell in the bowl. In an era of excess fluff and stuff, we forget the simple traditions like wagon-rides, caroling, paper chains and pop-corn strings. These are the nuggets hidden beneath the commercial glitz.
Christmas displays in the sprawling city park are breath-taking, but my breath seems stuck somewhere in a crack where the dirt road meets the pavement. I’m the country girl meets skyscraper in a long handshake—gripping tightly to the dazzling spectacle of store windows laced with glimmering, fake snow and animated characters, yet I feel the desire to let go and run into the hills—into the country mile that with each step lends a steadiness to my heartbeat that I can’t hear among the zooming planes and the echoing horns.
Where the red lights are long and patience is short, I sometimes feel like a misfit toy from Christmas past—like a Slinky that’s lost its slink. But as I slide into my seat at the Celtic Women holiday concert and nestle close to my man, I realize there’s room in my life for both the girl who loves tacky tinsel on the tree and the one who adores red high heels and hor dourves. I can click around in cowboy boots and still tiptoe to yoga.
If I am a misfit, it is by choice. Like a kid playing with the cardboard, I can choose to raise my trumpet and announce my grand entrance or toss it into the trash pile. During celebrations and every day between, I want to appreciate the elegance of simplicity and the delight in wearing the different shoes that fit my many moods.
May you see endless possibilities and enjoy the pleasures in the common boxes in your life.
Michele Zirkle Marcum is a native of Meigs County, author of “Rain No Evil” and host of Life Speaks on AIR radio.