My Box of Notes

When I was nine or ten, I had a flat red box in which I kept the stub of a pencil and notes scribbled on tiny pieces of paper. I don’t know what the box held originally. It had no label, and was about the right size to hold a pound of chocolates, but it didn’t smell like chocolate.

Being flat, the box fit easily under my bed. It would also have fit in the shallow top drawer of my chest of drawers, if there weren’t already so many things stored inside, such as rocks, feathers, marbles, baseball cards, and my father’s old pocket watches.

I don’t remember the notes specifically, but I do remember feeling they were important and very private, for they contained my thoughts at the time, and my impressions of the world around me. They were kept in no particular order. Instead, they were allowed to move freely under the creamy white underside of the lid, like a collection of autumn leaves.

I studied the notes and added to them only when I was alone, and reasonably certain that I wouldn’t be interrupted. I preferred doing this outside, in the vineyard, hidden away in the shade under the dusty canopy, in the company of brown spiders and bird tracks. I loved the shaggy bark hanging from the vine stumps, and the slowly ripening grapes hanging near my head. The vines spoke in the soft summer breeze. The soil glittered with tiny stars. Earth-song filled the air. All I had to do was write it down, and the sweet, profound, troubling feelings this symphony aroused.

Once, my mother found me in the vineyard not far from the house. Lost in thought, I didn’t hear her coming. When out of the blue she said, “Oh, here you are,” I jumped up and quickly put the lid on my box. Seeing this, she immediately apologized. Then she said something I will never forget. She said, “You can stay here. I know you need your privacy. Everyone does.”

In other words, my mother understood. She felt as I did. It was then that I realized that she, too, needed privacy, and so did my father and brothers, and everyone else alive. I had never thought of it before. I knew there were some things a person needed to do alone, and that being alone and doing them was one of life’s dearest pleasures, but I had never left the house or yard with the idea that I actually needed to be alone. I was just following my natural instinct.

I have no idea what became of my box of notes, but I have never tired of solitude. Until I left home, my mother and I were good friends. We still are. But she is more dependent on our friendship now, and waits for the interruptions my visits bring. In her mind, the beautiful past is no longer the orderly, labeled photo album it once was. The old black-and-whites are fading. Some have broken free from their black corner moorings, and overlap in the same way as the notes from my boyhood. A few of the names and faces have been forgotten. More and more, I act as her memory, and tell her the stories she and my father once told me. Bless her. Bless them both.

August 24, 2005

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Also by William Michaelian

Winter Poems

ISBN: 978-0-9796599-0-4
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
ISBN: 978-0-9796599-1-1
80 pages. Paper.
Cosmopsis Books
San Francisco

Signed copies available

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