I can see my daughter, aged there, chubby legs pockmarked with mosquito bites, curled up inside a brown cardboard box by the double mattress on the floor, at my sister’s house in Georgetown, billowing white gauze curtains, rain thundering on the zinc roof, me in a hammock reading on the verandah. I’d just walked out on my husband in Chile, grabbed my three- and five-year-olds and flown home. He didn’t try to stop me although he could have, nobly said children belonged with their mother… what he meant was, I can’t be tied down, you deal with this…you learn to read between the lies.
Funny how you always run back “home” in a crisis, just like Sheila said: we always sit in the same chair. There is this desire to belong, to lay claim, to a place where you will be known, and know, understand and be understood. I didn’t return to my mother’s house, but to my sister. We are three, and wherever there are two of us is home. The homing instinct must be wired into our DNA. Even my three-year-old, getting inside the cardboard box – although in her case, it was imagination, a boat, or a spaceship or a doll’s house, but still, the idea of a space all her own.
Mozart adores getting into glossy plastic bags, suitcases, handbags, crackly grocery bags, crinkly gift wrap paper or soft laundry bags, you name it. Oh! The excitement of it! His whiskers twitch, his tail stiffens, he approaches cautiously then surveys the entire surface and then the interior jealously for scents of treachery – what, other cats? other places? – what data does he collate and what conclusions does he draw? If it passes muster, he curls up inside and won’t be budged. I wonder if it looks as comical when we humans do it…
Putting people in boxes is very easy, so decide carefully what box you want to get into and woe betide if you want to change boxes. Some minds, like boxes, can be very square.
My dear friend left for her home country after 17 years, her entire life packed into a container, stacks of boxes of all shapes and dimensions, her precious piano included. And in the end, we ourselves go out in a box, feet first…the other boxes no longer matter.