Open This Box First

The movers bring the furniture that has spent the last 8 month in a storage locker. As the boxes come in I keep an eye out for a special one— the one that says, “Open First.”

I can’t find it.

The next day, with basic arrangement of furniture done but still so much unpacking to do, I still haven’t found it, so I call the moving company to ask if it has been left in the truck. They promise to check.

I may have lived in my last house for 18 years, but I moved 5 times in the 10 years prior, after getting married. I probably moved 10 times in the decade before that. I have a lot of experience moving, and one trick I learned was to have an “open first” box.

Day 3, my son and I are making an easy dinner— and I need to introduce myself to the neighbours, because apparently one of the items in the missing box is the can opener.

What else is in there? Toilet paper, of course, and hand towels for the bathroom. Scissors and a paring knife. A few cleaning cloths and supplies. A multi-screwdriver and a hammer.

I check the small storage locker that contains the furniture that will be needed when my son is finished school and moves out on his own again. There are many boxes there, but Open First is not among them.

It was a crazy time when I was packing up. In two months I cleared out the remnants of 30 years of my life and got a house ready to sell, all while adjusting to the collapse of my marriage. I was on an emotional rollercoaster and signed the sale papers days before I flew to England. There were so many decisions that my memory is hazy. Perhaps I had done something else with the Open First Box?

I check my daughter’s house, and my sister’s. I ask the people who helped me pack up. Still nothing. And every day, I discover more items that were in the box.

I kept my small espresso pot with me, in my car, but I don’t have the milk frother or the cinnamon shaker, the perfect one with the screen that spread the cinnamon in a fine mist on the top of the latte foam, the one that my son bought as his first present to me where his father or sister did not assist with the shopping. For some reason the funnels were in there, too, and storage containers, probably because they were light and filled up empty space.

I’ve been in my new place half a year, now. I bought a new can opener and storage containers, found a funnel. And I’ve discovered that I am no longer as obsessed with my perfect morning latte, so cinnamon from the spice jar suffices. I only miss my kitchen shears, bought at a specialty left-handed store on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. I suppose I could go on-line and find some, but that would be admitting that the box is gone forever.

I think about moving to the next stage of my life, in the introspection that quarantine brings, and I wonder what I should pack in my “Open First” box?

Patience, definitely. The last few months have taught me advanced lessons in patience, and acceptance, both of other people and the unexpected changes that life brings. I can speculate, but it occurs to me that I may never know what happened to that box. I may never really know why my husband left me. I may never truly understand what my children feel about their upbringing, or what their dreams are.

I’ll take an open heart and an open mind. It’s not easy to keep my heart hopeful and my mind curious, against the inertia of routine and self-protection. I chased novelty for a year as I traveled, thinking it was openness, but that was really only distraction. I will keep a stock of deeper curiosity to delve into meaning and other people’s viewpoints.

And I will keep the awareness that no object is really that important, even if you pack it in the Open First box.

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