The Box

03/25/2012

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Things found in a box under my parents’ bed: 

1. Booklet: Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy: A Patient’s Guide. 
2. Three booklets, in Italian, on St. Gabrielle. 
3. AARP Magazine, with Robert Redford on cover. 
4. Medicare receipts. Bank receipts. 
5. Expensive looking mass card to heal the sick, to my mom. 
6. 8x10 photo of my sister with her ex-husband at their wedding. 
7. Oggi Magazine 
8. St. Anthony calendar, in Italian. 
9. Birthday card for my dad’s 80th. 
10. Another cardiac booklet. 
11. Copies of wills. 
12. Booklet on Madonna di Canneto. 
13. AARP member benefits handbook.
                  And at the bottom of the box…

14. My two books. 

Here’s how I inscribed to them When the World Was Young:  Mama and Papa, Vorrei ringraziarvi per avermi datto l’opportunita di essere venuti qui in America, per la possibilita’ di andare ala universita, e per tutti i sacrafici che avete fatto per tutti noi.  Love, Tonino 

Rough translation: Thanks for coming to America and for all the sacrifices you made for us. 

Each item is still infused with the sweet fragrance of their house. But what I keep coming back to of course are the books. Why the heck were they buried? After finding them there, I hoped this was a box of treasures they wanted to preserve, but the contents attest otherwise. It’s tempting to search for metaphor or symbolism in their placement, but I can’t find any that resonate for me. The reason doesn’t run deep, I’m sure. They were probably just looking for a secure spot. 

A few certainties emerge though. My parents and I occupied different worlds. Theirs was forged by strong and nimble hands, the results tangible and solid, while I have lived in a world of ideas. They lived in the moment, rarely reflecting. I live in my head. They valued the corporal pleasures of eating and staying warm and sleeping, as we all must, but this was paramount to them, while I’d maintain that my needs are more varied. When I teach Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the one typically accompanied by a pyramid visual aid, I always add my parents’ rendition, where the bottom two levels representing physiological and safety crowd out everything else. Forget belongingness and self-esteem and self-actualization. As long as there was food on the table and a roof over your head (or a hat covering your ears or long underwear keeping you warm), the world was a fine place. 

I do wish we had had more in common, that they would have wanted to take in a show or a concert now and then. But they were content to eat and walk and watch a little television. Maybe there’s a lesson in this for me.

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