The box is old enough that the Magic Marker writing on the side has disappeared. It’s the box that we’d faithfully haul out for any emergency, any time that we had to leave the house in a hurry. Over the years the box has gotten heavier, older, weaker, and more neglected.
Without an attic or basement, the box is the nearest thing we have. It began as a so-called Xerox Box, a sturdy thing that held about 20 reams of copy paper, the stuff that our office machines ate at alarming rates. Nice touch—it had a lid that could be replaced and was fairly good at keeping dust and debris out. You had to fight over them in the office—they were much prized.
I’m looking for something else and I see the box. In a moment of weakness I decide to exhume the things we’ve decided are important enough to haul out.
Most surprising it’s mostly books. There are two 1st edition Zane Greys, still safe in their glassine paper covering their waxed color covers. Both are inscribed to my Grandmother Porter, a distant relative of Zane’s, and in mint condition. He’d dropped his first name, Pearl, by then and changed his last name from Gray to Grey. Why these aren’t in the safe deposit box, I ask myself.
Four yearbooks smile up at me: mine and my wife’s from high schools and colleges. Three are slim volumes with shiny pages, yellowing corners and black and white pictures of earnest looking young people dressed as adults.
My college yearbook is huge, about the size of the Los Angeles phone book, and in pretty good shape for its age. I thumb through it looking for the one black kid in my 5000 member graduating class, and of course, for old flames. I resist the temptation to turn down their corners; I’ll be able to find them again.
Buried underneath are high school and even a college diploma, some in wood and glass frames, and some in their fold over cases. I dust them off, open the hinges carefully, notice that the blue fountain penned signatures are fading. I close them, and put them back next to the yearbooks.
Tucked in a corner is a red white and blue hard paper box holding an old major league baseball. Not just any baseball but a signed one from every one of the 1960 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates. Dad had a friend, a bookie in town, who could get anything anytime, as long as you never asked him how. Dad told Dave Johns--that was his name--that I’d like a Pirates souvenir and the next day I had the ball. It came in the original box. I imagine Dave just walked into the clubhouse, got a ball, passed it around, threw some money to one of the trainers and left—that was his style.
I hold the box, open the lid and peer inside. Still looks good I guess, although the years of handling made it darker. I don’t touch it, just leave it alone. Fits well in there, since Zane Grey played baseball at Penn and his brother, Romer, played for the Pirates in 1902, but just briefly. Harmonic convergence, even if accidental, is good I muse.
There are a few more things in the box, including a small Man’s gold watch. It was my father in laws. He got it on a trip, one of many, to Switzerland in the 1960s. Made by Zenith, the same people who make some of the Rolex’s, it is a simple thing. Just two hands, no date, and a small sweep second hand. After he died a couple years ago we had it cleaned, renewed, and I had an email conversation with Nadia Goldberg, of Zenith, International S.A., the watchmaker about the provenance of the watch. She was able to tell me the day it was made and by which team on the factory floor. I wind it up. It’s ticking when I close the lid on the box.